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Ex-Hawk Brian Campbell enjoying Florida lifestyle

Former Hawk Brian Campbell leads Panthers with 11 points (all assists). | Getty Images

Former Hawk Brian Campbell leads the Panthers with 11 points (all assists). | Getty Images

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The facts: 6:30, CSN, 720-AM.

Updated: December 4, 2011 11:14AM

SUNRISE, Fla. — This week had the potential of being very sentimental for defenseman Brian Campbell.

The Blackhawks arrived in South Florida a day early, and a steady stream of texts from them poured in. Some even got him on the phone.

Everyone knows the game Thursday will be the first time he plays the Hawks as a member of the Florida Panthers. But the Florida sun has done him a lot of good.

“I was going to practice [Wednesday] in shorts and a T-shirt, and I kind of looked up at the sky and said, ‘I love it,’  ” Campbell told the Sun-Times. “It’s pretty easy to take. The weather has been the bonus of the whole fact of being able to play with a good organization and good guys.”

The trade of Campbell for Rostislav Olesz figured to be one of the bigger story lines for the Hawks this season. They would have preferred to keep Campbell, but they needed better depth and salary-cap flexibility.

The Hawks were able to achieve that with Campbell’s $7.1 million cap hit off the books. Through 11 games, the team’s revamped blue line has succeeded without him, but Olesz has been a regular scratch.

Campbell, meanwhile, finds himself in a similar position as he was in when he first signed with the Hawks in 2008. He’s with general manager Dale Tallon, and they’re trying to change the Panthers’ culture into a winning one.

“I think the attitude has changed a lot from what I’ve heard in years past, which has been good. It’s been positive,” Campbell said. “It’s nice to have a new coach [Kevin Dineen] coming in. Everybody is on the same foot that way with a new coach. He can implement his game plan and what he wants to do. It’s brought a new attitude here with the changes.”

It’s not a surprise that Campbell, one of the more personable players in the locker room and a coveted puck-moving defenseman, has had a similar effect on the Panthers as he had on the Hawks.

Campbell enjoys the same freedoms he had as a Hawk. As a result, he’s tied for the team lead in points with 11 (all assists), and he’s averaging almost 27 minutes per game. That includes more than five minutes on the power play.

It has helped that ex-Hawks Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky and former San Jose Sharks teammate Marcel Goc are here, too. The Panthers have exceeded expectations at 6-4-1.

“We’ve been pretty good,” Campbell said. “I would say we’re off to a good start.”

Campbell, though, wouldn’t say that he has had the Hawks game circled. After all, it’s not the first time the veteran has played a former team.

“I don’t think you ever forget who your friends are from the past,” he said.

Campbell said it’s always a shock when you’re traded, even if you know it’s coming, which he did in this instance. But he’s happy with life in Florida.

“It’s a big change for your lifestyle,” he said. “I had to make the decision for myself and look at it that way. I can’t complain. I like it a lot.”

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