For the first time in three seasons, injuries on the Bruins are allowing Anders Bjork to show what he can do. The past two seasons were essentially lost to Bjork's shoulder injuries that required surgery and lengthy recovery times.
This season, however, he came into camp healthy and ready to go. Bjork played very well in the preseason, but was sent down to the Bruins AHL affiliate in Providence to begin the season. That move was likely designed to get the young winger the maximum amount of playing time and a chance to shake off any remaining rust.
Bjork did not miss a beat and was lighting up the scoreboard in Providence when injuries started to take a significant toll on Boston's forward corps.
In the 13 games for the big club since he was recalled on Oct. 22, Bjork has four points, including three goals and one assist. He has a plus-two rating, a power play goal and a 50% faceoff percentage.
The 23-year-old Wisconsin native and Notre Dame alum's statistics have been impressive. In addition, he is helping to make any line he plays on one of the best on the ice on any given night.
Thankfully, a few of the Bruins' injured forwards are returning from injury. Second-line left wing and power play regular Jake DeBrusk, as well as Brett Ritchie, who has logged time on the second, third and fourth lines, returned to action on Tuesday. Head coach Bruce Cassidy also said Wednesday that he expects Patrice Bergeron to play tonight when the Bruins take on the Buffalo Sabres.
Despite the fact that the Bruins seem to be inching ever closer to full health up front, it would be difficult to imagine that Bjork has not earned a permanent spot in the Boston lineup. Karson Kuhlman and Zach Senyshyn, who are both still injured, are also possibilities to fight for a spot after they return. However, Bjork's solid play makes him a better option for the big club at this time than Kuhlman or Senyshyn.
One forward whose future remains uncertain is David Backes. The veteran assistant captain left the game against the Ottawa Senators on Nov. 2. A collision with Ottawa's Scott Sabourin left Beckes needing to be taken off the ice on a stretcher. Initial concerns surrounding Backes's long concussion history surfaced. However, little has been said about his status since that night.
If Backes misses significant time, at least one roster spot will remain open in the forward ranks. Although Kuhlman and Senyshyn both played well before their injuries occurred, Bjork's contribution to the team's success and immense potential cannot be overlooked.
Bjork was drafted 146th overall in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Instead of immediately signing with Boston, he began his collegiate hockey career. By the time he signed his first contract, Bjork was already beginning to show great promise. He made the team out of his first professional camp in 2017. Like he has in his "comeback" season this year, Bjork wasted little time racking up points in his rookie year.
Bruins management, coaches and fans alike can breathe a sigh of relief. The Anders Bjork that looked like a future star in 2017 seems to still have what it takes after losing nearly two seasons to injury. If he can stay healthy, Anders Bjork may well have secured a permanent gig as an NHL player.
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