If Josh Anderson had been unable to make his return tonight for the Blue Jackets in Toronto, there would have been a lot of disappointed people.
Forty-five of them, in fact.
That's how many friends and family the Toronto-area native will have in attendance tonight as Scotiabank Arena when the Jackets take on the Maple Leafs, and the Anderson Army had to feel good that the fleet-footed power forward was taken off injured reserve Monday morning.
Head coach John Tortorella confirmed Anderson will go back into the lineup for tonight's game, playing for the first time since an upper-body injury suffered Oct. 5 knocked him out for the next six games.
"Obviously it's been a couple weeks," he said. "You don't like watching hockey from up top, seeing the guys play, but at the end of the day injuries happen and you have to wait them out a little bit.
"(Being in Toronto) is obviously pretty special and where you want to be for your first game back."
Anderson came out flying in the first two games, putting nine shots on goal including six in the season opener vs. Toronto, but the injury suffered a night later vs. Pittsburgh put a short halt on what the team hopes is a huge season for the big winger.
He's improved his goal and point totals each NHL season, with career highs of 27 goals and 47 points, and with new opportunity among the forward group this year there's the hope the now 25-year-old Anderson can keep adding to his resume.
"He's one of our best players," head coach John Tortorella said. "Josh Anderson, in the time he has spent with me and watching him develop, he is one hell of a hockey player. He's on our power play now, he's killing penalties now, he's skating a regular shift. There is so much there that where I can in my mind project what he can be, he can be something special.
"The key with Josh is, does it get good to you or do you just keep on concentrating on getting better and better? That's the key for Josh. He has matured there tremendously."
The biggest emphasis has been on consistency, as Anderson had red-hot stretches a year ago and stretches where his production dipped at times. But no matter whether the puck is going in the net or not, Anderson still brings a big body that add to the team's physical game.
He's also a unique player, just one of two players to finish in the top 25 in the NHL in hits a season ago and also score 25 goals. That's the combination of grit and skill he hopes to bring tonight upon his return.
"I think it's just sticking to your game plan," he said. "I'm not going to change much tonight. I'm going to go out there and play my game and stick to the details and play simple and try to help our team win."
Anderson is still searching for his first point on the season, but he should return to being on the ice in all situations. During the team's morning skate in Toronto, he skated on a line with center Boone Jenner and left winger Alexandre Texier and was on the No. 2 power play unit.
"He can do everything," captain Nick Foligno said. "That's what makes him so good and why he's such a big part of our team. You miss him when he's not on the ice, what he can bring in every aspect. He plays in all situations and he's a guy we rely upon, so it'll be nice to have him back in there."