John Tortorella knows many things, but one of this is that he needs Oliver Bjorkstrand.
This isn't just a fill-in player. Bjorkstrand has legitimate goal-scoring talent as evidenced by an electric career in the Western Hockey League, a two-time 50-goal scorer (including a 63-goal campaign) with the Portland Winterhawks before turning pro. It hasn't been smooth sailing for the 23-year-old this season, as he's battled inconsistency with his game and has recently found himself a healthy scratch.
At least for now, that's set to change.
Tortorella told Anthony Rothman and Bobby Carpenter during his "Hockey and Hounds" weekly segment that Bjorkstrand will be back in the lineup when the Blue Jackets take on the Minnesota Wild, tomorrow night at Nationwide Arena. Bjorkstrand has sat the past four games, last seeing game action Nov. 17 against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"I do have the obligation to try to get him in a situation where he's going to help this team," Tortorella said on 97.1 The Fan. "It's a long year, eh guys? You have ebbs and flows with players. I can't shelve him and forget about him because there's too much there. He's still just a young man."
Anthony Duclair, who missed Wednesday's practice and is considered day-to-day, will not play Thursday but Tortorella said it's a contest for ice time right now between Duclair and Bjorkstrand. They're both battling to stay in the lineup, or in Bjorkstrand's case, get back in.
"I just need to see a heartbeat in him and that he wants to play hard on a puck," Tortorella said of Bjorkstrand. "Not to bang, not to body check – to fight for pucks so he can at least get a shot on net."
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