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Searching for solid start, Bjorkstrand delivering in early going

Forward scored a huge goal for Blue Jackets in Saturday night's win

by Jeff Svoboda @JacketsInsider /

After Oliver Bjorkstrand finished a red-hot second half of the season for the Blue Jackets, he headed home to Denmark on the same page as head coach John Tortorella. 

Both looked at the tale of two seasons put together by the talented winger -- three goals in his first 30 games last year followed by 20 the rest of the campaign, including a scorching nine goals in 10 games to cap the campaign -- and agreed the next step in Bjorkstrand's development was to produce for a full season. 

"He has to find his determination right away without someone prodding him -- meaning me," Tortorella said early in camp. "I think it's part of maturity. It's part of the process for a young player." 

How to do it? 

"Just get the same mind-set as I had at the end of the season," Bjorkstrand said when he reported to camp. "That's really the only way I can explain it. I should be in the same shape and all that, if not better. It's just a mind-set. How I find that mind-set, that's up to my brain or myself to figure out." 

Five games into the season, it appears to be working for the Danish winger. Bjorkstrand is tied for the team lead with two goals, including a dandy that came at a crucial time in the Blue Jackets' Saturday night win over previously unbeaten Carolina. 

Moments after the Hurricanes scored to take a 2-1 lead early in the second period -- and with PNC Arena rocking, fully confident the home team was about to put the gas pedal down to extend its winning streak -- Bjorkstrand took the puck in the right corner and skated behind the net. 

He had Sebastian Aho trailing him the whole way, but Bjorkstrand had the strength to pull out from behind the net and work his way to the slot. From there, he still had a step on the Canes forward and plenty of ice to shoot in, unleashing a twisted wrister that went over goalie James Reimer's left shoulder. 

Video: CBJ@CAR: Bjorkstrand scores after cycling around

The fantastic individual effort tied the game at 2 just 17 seconds after the Canes' goal, and Columbus never trailed again on the way to a 3-2 victory. 

"I was trying to hold on to the puck, and I saw a little bit of open ice," he said. "That was a little bit of a confidence thing. Something I have to do more of is hold on to (the puck), and when I see open ice, believing I can get to a good area and shoot it. It's something I'd like to keep working on." 

No one should be surprised Bjorkstrand - who has a quick and deceptive release, not to mention impeccable accuracy on his shot - was able to snipe Reimer, but what might be most impressive so far is his ability to protect the puck and win battles. 

That was an area where Bjorkstrand struggled a year ago when he was going through his early-season slump, but Tortorella has seen growth in that area. 

"It's nice to see him get rewarded because I think he's been one of our stronger players on the puck," Tortorella said after the win.  

The head coach said the player and coach had had a discussion about that very subject early in the season after the game two loss to Pittsburgh, and Bjorkstrand has replied with a pair of goals in the past three games and nearly had another, drilling the crossbar with a laser beam of a shot in the loss Friday night to Anaheim.  

Bjorkstrand is also one of two Blue Jackets players through five games not to be on the ice this year for a goal against at 5-on-5, and Columbus has a 10-6 edge in high-danger chances when he's been on the ice. 

There is certainly a long way to go, but the early returns for Bjorkstrand are that in many ways he's picking up where he left off a season ago.  

"I want to have a good start to the season," Bjorkstrand said. "That's something I've been talking about for a long time. That's what I'm working for, and I feel I've had a few good games, but it doesn't stop here. Obviously I have to keep going and build on it."  

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