Josh Anderson joined his fellow Jackets today for his first team practice of the season. After signing a contract that keeps him in Columbus for the next three years, Anderson is excited and ready to get into back into the lineup as soon as the coaches believe he's ready.
"It definitely feels good to be back," Anderson said. "It was extremely hard (not to be here). It's not fun watching on TV and seeing your teammates compete every day and going through the work they had to go through."
While Anderson waiting on his contract to be finalized, he continued working with his trainer at home and evolved his workouts to two-a-days to try to keep up with what he teammates were doing in training camp. He'd do skill work in his morning sessions and scrimmage in the afternoons.
It's perhaps impossible to replicate a John Tortorella training camp, and so once in Columbus, Anderson knows there's still work to do.
"I am maybe a little behind my teammates," Anderson said. "I saw what these guys went through, it made me want to get better too. Now, I just want to compete."
After having to watch from a distance, with his contract now in place, the Burlington native drove down to Columbus yesterday. During the trip head coach John Tortorella checked in on the 6-foot-3 forward.
"I talked to him last night when he was driving," Tortorella said. "I wanted to make sure he was safe getting in here. We had a timeline we were getting ready for him, we had a physical for him waiting. I also talked to him a little this morning as far as what he's been doing."
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For his part, Anderson, who had 17 goals and 12 assists in 78 games last season, knows it's up to his coaches to determine when he's going back into the lineup. For now, he's happy to be back with his teammates and part of the Blue Jackets. It was tough to hear from teammates daily, and seeing them as Anderson walked through the rink this morning was "unbelievable."
The focus now is on the game of hockey. The business side of the game has taken care of itself and there's no ill will on the part of management or player.
"I'm just happy to be back and play the game I love," Anderson said. "(In my first practice) I felt good. I felt comfortable just being here with the team. I want to keep working hard out there and get a good pace and I did that today."
Anderson isn't the only one who is happy he's back. His coaches are too.
"He's a good player and now he's signed," Tortorella said. "We bring him in and we try to be smart as far as preparing him to play. We expect him to be a really big part of our team."
- Tortorella says he plans to continue his approach to game days by not having morning skates. He believes the extra rests pays off not just on those days, but down the stretch "in the dog days of February and March."
- Four rookies are expected to be in the lineup Friday against the Islanders. Sonny Milano, Markus Hannikainen, Gabriel Carlsson and Pierre-Luc Dubois. For Dubois, it will also be his NHL debut.
- What will Tortorella be looking for opening night? "'It's time. From a coach's point of view you want to see what you have. No matter what you think you have, we're going to find out as we start playing the games for real."