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Marlies captain Andrew Campbell quietly leads club to greater heights

From The Star

As captain of the Toronto Marlies, Andrew Campbell is paid to lead, to help keep a first-place team on the right path and to note deficiencies in his team’s game when it goes off track.

Saturday’s 6-5 overtime loss to the Binghamton Senators at Ricoh Coliseum was one of those nights where the veteran defenceman did indeed notice such things.

“There can be lots of excuses,” Campbell said after the loss, just the second in the Marlies’ last 14 games. The defeat came after the team had arrived in Toronto just before 5 a.m. Saturday morning after a road victory Friday night in Grand Rapids, Mich.

“But we have to be able to fight through them. We played a team that’s down in the standings and if we’re up to half our potential, we win this game.”

The Marlies head into the all-star break at 36-9-2, the top club in the AHL but not exactly feeling good about their game of late.

The Maple Leafs’ farm club fought to overcome an off-day full of turnovers and defensive responsibility. Centre Connor Brown had a goal and an assist — giving him six points in four games since return from injury — while Josh Leivo, on loan from the Leafs, had a pair of goals with two assists.

Still, the Marlies were sloppy in the neutral zone, giving up too many transition opportunities to the Senators. Their usually solid own-zone defence was off kilter, allowing open lanes and too many easy passes to dangerous areas in front of the Toronto net for Senator forwards.

After the game, coach Sheldon Keefe, William Nylander and Leivo made their way to Syracuse to partake in the AHL’s all-star festivities but the coach wasn’t leaving without a stern warning.

“Some of it you look at it as . . . fatigue, you come in at (four in the morning) and you come up short,” Keefe said.

“But the same mistakes we made tonight we made (Friday) night and the game before that. It’s been disguised a bit by how things have fallen into place (their 12-2 win streak) so you want the team to see this as a sign . . . get to work, we have a lot of work to do.”

Campbell will be called on to stem the problems that have cropped up in the Marlies game. They lost for just the third time in Saturday games this season — 13-2-1 — and added to their sub-par performance by taking two penalties for having too many men on the ice.

But the team remains a talented club with real aspirations of a long playoff run. Campbell seems to be the perfect man to lead this club.

The Marlies have a number of young stars, and 27-year-old Campbell has quietly helped lead them to their current lofty status. He is a mature, quiet presence on the team, one who steadies the dressing room and performs the give-and-take exchanges with the coaching staff, one of the more difficult duties on a captain’s to-do list.

Campbell was signed by the Leafs as a free agent last summer to do exactly that. Drafted in the third round by the Los Angeles Kings in 2008, he spent six seasons in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs before finishing the last 33 games last season with the Arizona Coyotes in the NHL.

Campbell served as captain on a Manchester team that sent stars like Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson to the Kings. And while he kept plugging away in the minors, Campbell learned leadership from previous Monarchs captains like Drew Bagnall and Marc-Andre Cliche.

“They were always the hardest working guys on the ice, but I’ve been fortunate to be around hard working people my whole life. My father (Roger) is a steelworker for Lake Erie Steel (in Nanticoke, Ont.) for like 30 years and my mother (Cindy) taught Grade 3 for 30 years,” said Campbell, who hails from Caledonia, Ont.

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