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Kampfer is making it a smooth transition

Defenseman Steven Kampfer hasn’t been hesistant about jumping right in during his first two games with the Bruins. Defenseman Steven Kampfer hasn’t been hesistant about jumping right in during his first two games with the Bruins. (Elsa/Getty Images)
By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / December 14, 2010

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In 2007-08, Matt Hunwick had concluded his days at the University of Michigan and kicked off his pro career in Providence. At the same time, Jack Johnson, Hunwick’s defensive partner at Michigan, was starting life as an NHL rookie with Los Angeles.

That season, Michigan coach Red Berenson leaned on sophomore Steven Kampfer to assume the minutes and puck-moving responsibilities vacated by Hunwick and Johnson. This year, Kampfer, now 22, is doing the same thing as an NHL freshman.

The primary reason the Bruins traded Hunwick to Colorado for Colby Cohen on Nov. 29 was to clear cap space for Marc Savard, who would make his 2010-11 debut three days later. A major factor in freeing Hunwick, the team’s smoothest-skating defenseman, was because of the development of his former Wolverine teammate.

So far, Kampfer hasn’t disappointed.

“He’s a guy that can carry the puck,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “When he’s got the room to take care of the puck, he should.’’

In two games, Kampfer has averaged 14:25 of ice time. As Dennis Seidenberg’s partner on the No. 2 pairing, Kampfer hasn’t been shy to deliver hits, nor has he hesitated in joining the rush. On his first NHL shift last Thursday, Kampfer planted Islanders forward Blake Comeau on his back. In both games, Kampfer has carried the puck through center ice and even dipped deep into the offensive zone.

It’s the kind of offensive-minded presence the Bruins have been without since giving up Dennis Wideman in the deal that brought back Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell. The two forwards have been much-needed additions on their respective lines, but the Bruins lost their sharpest puck-moving defenseman to the Panthers.

By trading Hunwick ($1.45 million cap hit) and Marco Sturm ($3.5 million) and bringing Kampfer’s $587,500 base salary into the fold, the Bruins have completed their cap-clearing deals. They now can proceed with hockey trades — preferably to shore up the defense with a veteran puck-mover — if they choose to do so. For now, they appear to have a temporary solution in Kampfer, one of four former collegians general manager Peter Chiarelli has acquired in the last eight months.

On March 3, one day after landing the rights to Kampfer from Anaheim for a fourth-round pick, the Bruins welcomed then-Ohio State defenseman Matt Bartkowski to the mix in the Seidenberg trade. On June 26, the Bruins swapped Vladimir Sobotka to St. Louis for the rights to Boston University defenseman David Warsofsky. The flurry concluded when Cohen, the ex-BU defenseman, came back east in the Hunwick trade.

Management made those moves to firm up the organization’s defensive depth. The theory goes that teams can land defensemen later in their development curves than by drafting them as 18- or 19-year-olds out of juniors. Two games into life as an NHLer, Kampfer hasn’t disappointed his bosses.

Shelley disciplined Philadelphia tough guy Jody Shelley was suspended for two games yesterday because of his dangerous hit on the Bruins’ Adam McQuaid Saturday. In the second period, while McQuaid sprinted back for the puck to get an icing call, Shelley shoved the defenseman face-first into the end boards. McQuaid needed help from Zdeno Chara and David Krejci to skate off the ice.

“I got my hands up and braced myself a little bit,’’ said McQuaid, who returned later in the second. “So it ended up not being as bad as it could have been.’’

In 31 games, Shelley has one goal, two assists, and 73 penalty minutes while averaging 6:11 of ice time per outing. He was called for a five-minute hitting from behind major and a game misconduct on the play. Shelley apologized to McQuaid after the hit.

League disciplinarian Colin Campbell didn’t participate in yesterday’s conference call with Shelley. Campbell will not partake in any disciplinary decisions involving the Bruins because of his son, Gregory. Vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy conducted the call.

Shelley will not play tonight against Pittsburgh nor against Montreal tomorrow. He will forfeit $11,827.96 to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.

Rest days After being given Sunday off, the Bruins didn’t practice yesterday either. They participated in their annual toy drive at Target in Woburn. They will return to work at Ristuccia Arena this morning at 11. They have two tuneups prior to their two-game road swing, which kicks off in Buffalo tomorrow and brings them to Montreal Thursday . . . Sturm underwent a physical for the Kings. He could be in the LA lineup within the next week, possibly alongside No. 1 center Anze Kopitar . . . Defenseman Mark Stuart, estimated to miss 4-6 weeks because of a broken right hand and a dislocated right finger, has not been placed on long-term injured reserve. A player on LTIR must be sidelined for at least 10 games and 24 days. If Stuart were placed on LTIR, the earliest he’d be able to play is Jan. 1 against the Sabres at HSBC Arena. The team’s hope is that he can play before then.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.

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