Steve Kampfer debuts early to shore up Wild defense

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 5, 2012 - 1:16 AM

As the Boston Bruins' extra defenseman, Steve Kampfer only got into 10 NHL games this season because the Bruins have been mostly healthy on the blue line.

So after the Wild acquired the 23-year-old last week for Greg Zanon, the plan was for Kampfer to go to Houston and play a few games so he could get some hockey under his belt before debuting in a Minnesota uniform.

Kampfer never did play for the Aeros before debuting in a Wild sweater Sunday night against the Colorado Avalanche. In an oddity in the schedule, Houston was idle most of the week. In that interim, the Wild was atrocious defensively since dealing Zanon and Nick Schultz.

So Kampfer's debut was accelerated.

"You go down there, practice and get to know those guys and next thing I know, I'm on a plane up here," Kampfer said Sunday morning. "But it was good to learn the system a little bit down there, and then come up and not get bombarded with everything all at once."

Kampfer was paired with another recently acquired player, Tom Gilbert, and replaced veteran Kurtis Foster, who was a minus-3 in Friday's 6-0 loss at Detroit.

He considers himself an offensive guy who makes a quality first pass out of his own zone, is solid defensively and plays with a "bit of an edge."

His objective is to make this call-up an audition of sorts for next season. "I think you're on a tryout every day when you're in the NHL," Kampfer said. "I don't think it really matters who you are. You have to prove yourself every day, and you have to make sure you're making the most of your opportunity.

"I definitely think this is an opportunity to go out there and show the coaches and management I can play and I can play in the NHL every night."

Painful video

Saturday was a day off for the Wild, but Foster, reacquired by Minnesota on Feb. 24, drove to the X to watch his shifts against the Red Wings.

"Last game wasn't where I need to be," Foster said. "I don't blame [coach Mike Yeo] for sitting me out. I didn't have a good game. I didn't feel good. Watching on video, I didn't look good.

"You know, I put so much pressure on myself to come here and produce that I'm almost trying too hard. Then you play a team like Detroit that can eat you up if you give them too much room, and I gave them too much room.

"I haven't felt as confident as I need to be in my overall game. It's been a tough year with ups and downs. But the way I practice and the way I come to the rink and take care of myself in the gym, I'm sure I'll be ready whenever Mike puts me back in."

Sunday night, the Wild lost Justin Falk in the first period because of a leg injury, so Foster might get back in Tuesday at Colorado.

Go Blue

Kampfer, who grew up outside Ann Arbor, Mich., and played for Michigan, was excited to suit up in the same game as now-teammate Jed Ortmeyer, a former Wolverine.

"I was a big fan of Jed Ortmeyer when I was a kid," said Kampfer, 10 years younger than the 33-year-old Ortmeyer. "That was when Ortmeyer, [Michael] Cammalleri and [John] Shouneyia were dominating college hockey."

"Wow. I'm old," Ortmeyer said. "In Houston, my linemate is 13 years younger [Kris Foucault]. Kids are getting younger and I'm sticking around."

Etc.

• Forward Nick Palmieri missed Sunday's game because of an upper-body injury. Cal Clutterbuck (upper body) played, while Chad Rau was scratched.

• Minnesota Duluth national champ Mike Connolly made his NHL debut for Colorado.

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