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Big Opportunity Awaits Florek and P-Bruins Forwards

by Jess Isner / Boston Bruins — Last year was a year of transition for Justin Florek, a year of change and a year of growth.

During the season, Florek managed to make his mark with the big club. In the offseason, the goal was to make sure he would have the opportunity to continue to do so for another year.

On Friday, the Bruins agreed to terms with Florek, signing the Michigan-born forward to a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level and $90,000 at the AHL level.

“It’s amazing, and it’s another step in the right direction and a dream come true for me,” Florek said on Friday. “Boston is just a great city and a great hockey city and organization, and I am really looking forward to the opportunity to get another chance to play for Boston.”

Florek spent the bulk of the 2013-14 season in Providence, playing in 69 games and registering 19 goals and 19 assists for 38 points with a plus-17 rating. He also played in four regular-season games with the Boston Bruins, tallying a goal and an assist.

His time with the B’s may have been short, but it was invaluable, providing a familiarity with the organization that he believes will benefit him greatly heading into this year’s training camp.

“Last year was my first NHL training camp, so to kind of just go through that, it was just a great experience and I was happy to be there,” he said. “But this year, I’m coming back and I kind of know the ropes a little bit. I’m coming back to make the team this year. So I may be more comfortable, but I’m also more confident in myself and hopefully [I’ll] earn a spot.”

Given the offseason departures of Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton, there are obvious vacancies with the big club, and Florek is one of several Providence forwards gunning to make the leap — for good.

When he was called upon last season, he proved himself — even in the postseason, where he tallied a critical goal in Boston’s first-round series against Detroit, picking off a pass by Jimmy Howard in the Bruins’ offensive zone and turning it into a 1-0 B’s lead early in Game 2. After losing Game 1 at home, it marked a critical momentum swing, and a critical heads-up play by the one of the team’s least experienced players.

“Every game I got, I believe that I got more confident out there,” Florek said. “I’m just familiar with the guys, the pace of the game, the skill level. I think I continued to get more confident on the ice and that is going to transition well to my effectiveness at the NHL level.”

Florek will have plenty of competition in training camp this year from plenty of players he has called teammates for the last two-plus years in Providence. But the competition shouldn't phase the left-shot forward; he will simply continue showing the B’s brass what he can do, just like he did last year, when he got the opportunity.

“Going into training camp, it is going to be a really great test,” he said. “It’s just more motivation to work hard this summer because there are spots that are going to be open. So it’s just extra motivation to go that extra mile during the summer and go in to training camp ready to go.”

In particular, Florek notes his speed, his strength and his shot as his primary areas of improvement this summer.

“Just being able to use my body and be effective at that level is going to be really important to me,” he said. “So if I can work those two things into my game and be more effective using those, that’s really going to help me out.”

Otherwise, he will keep it simple: continue to work hard, and be ready to seize the opportunity that awaits. Vacancies aren’t always a given when camp opens, and Florek and his fellow P-Bruins forwards understand what is at stake.

But as a player who has been up to the big club and knows that he can compete at that level, Florek is especially hungry for the chance to be in Boston for good.

“I’m really excited about this year, and the progression I have made over the past two years,” he said. “Moving forward, I really am looking forward to taking big steps this year and hopefully make an impact in Boston.”

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