It had been one year, nine months, and 29 days since Nathan Gerbe last suited up in the NHL.
It had been three years, nine months, and 13 days since he last scored an NHL goal.
On Monday, December 23rd, Gerbe certainly announced his return with a bang. In the second period against the New York Islanders with the score knotted at 1 apiece, he took advantage of a turnover and roofed a backhander past Islanders netminder Thomas Gress to give the Blue Jackets a 2-1 advantage.
Gerbe led the Blue Jackets with five shots on goal and also added two hits. One of Gerbe's best attributes is his hustle, and that was on full display against the Islanders.
Head coach John Tortorella elaborated: "[Gerbe] will be able to skate when he's 55. He's just a bundle of energy that way."
In part due to the energy that Gerbe brings, he's a great fit for John Tortorella's system, which prioritizes players laying their bodies on the line in all situations, a focus on defense, and a "team-first" attitude.
While Gerbe won't score every night, he'll bring his hustle and skill with the puck every time he steps on the ice — a valuable approach that will give Tortorella much to consider as his NHL regulars begin to get healthy again.
Although the Blue Jackets are dealing with an enormous amount of injuries, they're still stringing along wins and points — they've won five in a row and gotten points from seven in a row. The play of AHL callups has been a big reason for their recent success, as players hungry for the NHL shot are doing everything in their power to stay afloat at the NHL level.
Look for Gerbe and co. to continue their push, and look for the Blue Jackets to continue their renewed effort towards getting back in the playoff race.