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Practice Notes: Anderson providing big presence for Blue Jackets

Power forward's fight with Chara the latest example of his early impact.

by Brian Hedger @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

Josh Anderson knew exactly who was behind him as he chased a puck behind the net Monday night against the Boston Bruins.

It was a frustrated, towering, 6-foot-9 skyscraper of a defenseman, also known as Zdeno Chara.

The Bruins' giant spent most of the first period fending off a torrent of hits by Anderson, Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner, so less than a minute into the second period - with Anderson in his sights - he hit back.

"Coming down on [the play], I wanted to get to the puck first," Anderson said Tuesday, after the Blue Jackets' practice at Nationwide Arena. "He just gave me a little shove there, and I went flying. He's a big boy for sure."

Anderson is too, standing 6-foot-3, 221 pounds. Still, when he decided to stand up for himself following the hit, the 22-year old quickly realized he was giving up about half a foot in height and 30 pounds in weight.

"He just asked me if I wanted to fight, so I just said, 'Fine,'" Anderson said. "But then I had to second think it, for sure."

Following the Blue Jackets' 4-3 win in a shootout, Anderson joined the postgame show on Fox Sports Ohio and gave a more detailed description of Chara's dance invitation.

"He just said, 'Do you want it, kid?'" Anderson said, smirking. "I said, 'Yeah, let's go.' Things started from there."

So, they went, and Anderson held his own overall.

The fact he didn't get pulverized, and actually landed a couple shots of his own, fired up his Blue Jackets teammates. Behind the bench, even coach John Tortorella was impressed. In fact, when Tortorella first noticed what was happening, and saw Anderson drop his gloves opposite Chara, just two words came to mind.

"I said, 'Oh, gosh,'" Tortorella said.

The coach was probably not alone in that reaction, but watching it unfold was just the latest example of what Anderson has brought to the table for the Blue Jackets in the 10 games he's played.

He's given them a big body who can really skate, first at right wing on the third line and recently at right wing on the top group, with Artemi Panarin and center Nick Foligno. He's also put the power into the term "power forward," thus far, with his unrelenting push to attack the net area in the offensive zone.

He's also given them some toughness, and now - after surviving a fight against Chara - some additional street cred.

"Not too many people would want to get involved in that," said Tortorella, who was no fan of Chara's hit. "But Josh … high marks. You better get your first shot in, though, and he did, I think. So, good for him."

Anderson's shot, however, are more than just punches. He's becoming an offensive force, as well. Anderson had an assist against the Bruins, and now has six points (three goals, three assists). He's also tied for third on the team in hits (21) with rookie Pierre-Luc Dubois.

"When Andy's effective, he needs to bring attention to himself," Tortorella said. "That wasn't a play that needs to be in his game. That was a hit from behind, but Andy needs to draw that type of attention, by his forechecking and just the way he can skate as a big man, and he's done that. Each game, he's getting better and better. He's getting rewarded with some ice time, so he's got to continue to do that."

Tortorella issued that comment Tuesday, after practice. It was one of the few times this season he hasn't added something further about Anderson's contract dispute, which Tortorella laments because it cost Anderson the entire preseason as a holdout.

"He's not letting that go, is he?" Anderson said, smiling. "Obviously, he's not happy with that, but that's overwith now. That's in the past, and I'm here now and ready to work, ready to win as a team."

After missing the first two games of the season on a conditioning assignment with the Cleveland Monsters of the NHL, Anderson has steadily worked his way up the lineup.

"I feel pretty good," Anderson said. "I've played [10] games now, so I'm in pretty good shape. I'm starting to get going. Obviously, getting that opportunity on the first line [is] very exciting, and hopefully we can score a couple goals here pretty soon."

News & Notes

INJURY UPDATES: Forward Cam Atkinson didn't practice Tuesday and remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Tortorella had no further update.

Defenseman Gabriel Carlsson, who's on injured reserve with an upper-body injury, is getting closer to returning. The 20-year old participated in the Blue Jackets' optional morning skate Monday, and joined a full practice Tuesday for the first time since he was injured in a game against the New York Rangers on Oct. 13 at Nationwide Arena.

"I'm not sure how he's going to be after," Tortorella said. "We'll talk to the trainers, but you know what I think about him, as such a young man playing that position. So, it was great to have him on the ice, and we'll see where he is."

Zach Werenski also missed practice, but it was a maintenance day off after playing four games in the past six days.

"He was a little banged up, but he's OK," Tortorella said.

TOUGH DECISION LOOMING: Markus Nutivaara is taking advantage of the playing time that became available after Carlsson was placed on injured reserve. He has three assists and a plus-2 rating in seven games since being recalled Oct. 15 from the Cleveland Monsters.

He had two assists Monday against the Bruins, including a long stretch pass from the left circle in the defensive zone to Tyler Motte at the Boston Blue line. The puck slid between Chara's legs to Motte's stick for a mini-breakaway goal.

Carlsson might be nearing a return, so it raises the question of what the Blue Jackets will do to make room on the roster. They're currently at the max of 23 players, with Carlsson and center Lukas Sedlak on IR. Nutivaara is ahead of defenseman Scott Harrington on the depth chart, according to Tortorella, and plays like the one he made to Motte are a big reason why.

"That's what puts [Nutivaara] ahead of some people on our depth chart, as far as getting us out of our end zone and making plays like that," he said. "He's getting much better at skating with the puck and skating out of trouble, and escaping. But that's what [Nutivaara] brings, and that's why he's a bit ahead of [Harrington] in the depth chart."

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