A strip of worn white tape was stuck to the puck David Kampf clutched in his right hand as he disappeared through a door in the Blackhawks locker room late Friday.
What was written in marker on that tape, something about "first NHL goal" and the numbers "1-12-18," made the 6-ounce piece of rubber the best birthday present the rookie center ever received.
Yes, a team official handed Kampf the puck after the Hawks' 2-1 victory against the Jets.
But really, Kampf gave the gift to himself. He turned 23 on Friday and became the first player in franchise history to score his first goal on his birthday.
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"He said it's pretty special," teammate and interpreter Jan Rutta said. "It's the best day in his life that he scored his first NHL goal on his birthday."
Kampf added an assist in a victory that pushed the Hawks back into the second wild-card spot.
Kampf listened to a few questions from reporters in English, then gave his answers to Rutta in Czech. Rutta turned those words back into English.
Teamwork has been evident in Kampf's game since he made his debut Dec. 28 against the Canucks. He has a goal and four assists in nine games.
The Blackhawks' hidden secret is becoming less of a secret with each game.
Veteran Patrick Sharp played on a line with Kampf and the since-departed Richard Panik on Jan. 5 and said Kampf's understanding of the game is better than some give him credit for.
"They were yapping back and forth (in Czech)," Sharp said. "I don't know if they were talking about me or the game or what. He understands a lot. He's a smart player."
Sharp added that Kampf's understanding of English became apparent to him on the bench, where Kampf is constantly talking, in English, while breaking down plays.
"Did I just blow his cover?" Sharp joked.
Kampf agreed to a two-year, entry-level contract with the Hawks on May 1. After spending training camp with the team, Kampf was sent to Rockford for some polishing.
He had seven goals and nine assists in 30 games with the IceHogs before he was summoned to Chicago after the Hawks placed Artem Anisimov on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.
"He's been a really nice fit at center," general manager Stan Bowman said. "That gives us a lot of options over the next little bit when we get everyone healthy."
What happens after that is anyone's guess, but it's a "problem" coach Joel Quenneville said the team will welcome when it comes to fruition.
"His quickness and speed is very noticeable," Quenneville said. "We like his instincts on the defensive side, and he improved with the puck (in Rockford). That gives us versatility."
Quenneville praised Kampf's talent on faceoffs – he has won 72.7 percent in his last two games – particularly in the defensive zone, and said he'll continue to improve.
"He can only help us ... and get important minutes as we go," Quenneville
Minutes – an average of 13 minutes, 10 seconds so far – neither Kampf nor the Hawks necessarily expected when he was called up. But minutes that promise to continue to be there for the time being.
"He's a pleasant surprise," forward Patrick Kane said. "Sometimes those kids come up from Rockford and you're not really sure what to expect. He stepped right in. He's been big on the penalty kill. He scored a big goal (Friday) night."
And then received a present he'll never forget.