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Anderson doing his part during Blue Jackets' win streak

Forward has game-winning goals in back-to-back games

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider / BlueJackets.com

It was the prettiest goal Josh Anderson will ever score, right?

OK, it wasn't. He knew he scored it, but he didn't know he was scoring it while he was scoring it, you might say.

With the big forward parked in front of the Arizona net on the power play, Seth Jones uncorked a knuckling one-timer that advanced toward Darcy Kuemper's net. The Arizona goalie reached out his glove to snag it, only it never got there.

The biscuit brushed off of Anderson's leg just enough to change directions before entering the basket, giving Columbus a 3-2 lead it would carry home in Thursday night's 4-2 dispatching of Arizona.

Video: CBJ@ARI: Anderson redirects shot past Kuemper for PPG

It was the second straight game-winning goal for Anderson and his third goal in four games, a welcome sign for a Blue Jackets team whose search for consistent scoring from outside its generally dominating first line has been a season-long quest.

Anderson has been able to chip that in at times, but it hasn't always been consistent. The power forward with the flowing locks had seven goals in the Jackets' first 12 games, then had eight goals in the next 37 games before his recent hot run.

"I don't know what it is," said Anderson, whose goal against the Coyotes was his 18th, one off a career high. "Maybe a couple of bounces my way. Hopefully it continues, but I don't think about scoring too much."

The ups and downs have occasionally frustrated head coach John Tortorella, who memorably told the media "I can't find Andy" on the tape during one of Anderson's cold streaks.

But it was Anderson who told Tortorella to stay on him this season, as Anderson entered the 2018-19 campaign intent on continuing to build his game.

"I think he knows there's more there," Tortorella said in December. "He admitted to himself he needs more help and he needs more push. I have a tremendous amount of respect for a player to come to me (with that request), and it wasn't, 'Come and scream at me,' it was reminders.

"And during the year, once a week I'll go to him after he plays a couple of good games and let him know, 'OK, that's done now, have a good practice today and be ready for the next one. You can be better keep working at your game.' There's some games he's struggled, you tell him to put it away and get ready for the next one."

Anderson said he's come to appreciate those check-ins from the head coach.

"We've had conversations throughout the year," he said. "Whenever it's been a couple of games where he doesn't think I'm at the level I'm capable of, he definitely let's me hear it. Maybe sometimes on the bench, too. But those are things that make players better. You want to hear that because if they're not talking about you, they don't really care."

Watch: Youtube Video

Of late, the Jackets have been getting the Anderson that can be a bear to handle rather than the one who sometimes has faded into the periphery. With Cam Atkinson out of the Jan. 31 game at Winnipeg after he was hit in the face with a puck during warmups, Anderson was elevated to the top line and scored a goal.

Reunited with his fellow physically imposing linemates of Nick Foligno and Boone Jenner the past two games, Anderson has responded with a pair of game-winning goals. And in true Anderson fashion, the two tallies probably traveled a grand total of about 10 feet, showing he's getting to the gritty areas on the ice.

"I think it's coming," he said of his game after the contest at Winnipeg, where his goal snapped an eight-game scoreless streak. "I think I still have a little bit more to give here. Obviously I've been in a little bit of a slump. You just have to battle through it. All players go through it. Keep on working on your game on the defensive side and the offense will come."

In the past, Tortorella has compared Anderson to Washington forward Tom Wilson, though the head coach also admits it's a comparison Anderson finds a bit uncomfortable. But it also makes sense. In a game that has changed to favor speed and skill more than ever before, Wilson is kind of a throwback, a player skilled enough not to be out of place in today's game but physical enough to be incredibly difficult to play against.

That type of power forward is on the endangered species list in the NHL, but Tortorella thinks Anderson can be an outlier in that regard. The head coach's hope is Anderson, like Wilson did last year during the Caps' Stanley Cup run, can elevate the Blue Jackets to another level.

"Josh has a chance to really lead this team in that type of position as a power forward to help us get over the hump," Tortorella said. "He's a good hockey player. He can do a lot of different things to change the momentums of the game."

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