BOSTON - Anders Bjork had not played in a National Hockey League game since last January. You wouldn't have known it by the way he looked on Saturday evening.
The 22-year-old winger, who had been recovering from shoulder surgery, made his preseason debut in the Bruins' 4-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers at TD Garden, displaying his patented speed and skill, as well as some increased strength with the puck.
"Felt all right, a little rusty," said Bjork, played 16 minutes, 17 seconds as the right wing on the Bruins' third line. "It's hard to prepare for, even with our practices. I think I was lucky enough that our camp is really high-paced and pretty physical. I think I was as ready as I could be….but when you don't play a game in seven or eight months you're going to be a little rusty. Definitely felt it a little bit."
Video: Bjork discusses first game back
After suffering both a concussion and a labrum tear during his rookie season, the 6-foot, 186-pounder focused on adding some muscle over the summer and believes that increased strength made an impact on his ability to stand up to the rigors of the NHL game.
"Definitely. I noticed that, which I was pleased about," said Bjork, who had four goals and eight assists in 30 games last season. "In the corners and on battles, I felt a little bit stronger, especially upper-body-wise. I think that helped me in a couple battles, even though my legs weren't completely there tonight. I think that helped me win a couple of battles that I wouldn't have won last year."
With Patrice Bergeron still out, Bjork played the bumper on Boston's first power-play unit and - along with Ryan Donato - provided a stellar screen on the Bruins' only goal. David Pastrnak's wrister from the point sailed by Bjork, who was planted in the slot, and tipped off Donato at the top of the crease.
At even strength, Bjork skated in place of David Backes as Boston's third-line right wing and hopes his performance was enough to get him into the lineup on Wednesday night for the season opener in Washington.
"Obviously I was in a weird situation [coming back from injury], so who knows what will happen, but that's obviously the goal," said Bjork.
Torey Krug, who missed the majority of the preseason as he recovered from a fractured ankle, left in the first period with a lower-body injury and did not return. Cassidy did not have an update following the game, but said he didn't believe Krug had been suffering any lingering effects from his fractured ankle.
"I have no information on anything bothering him," said Cassidy. "They gave him a timeline on when he could return to play, and it was later. He wasn't going to play the first two games, clearly. That's why he wasn't going to China. That was determined in probably the first week of August….and then he gets injured again, so hopefully it's nothing serious. But it's tough luck if it is, obviously."
It seems that Cassidy's first choice would be to turn to Matt Grzelcyk if Krug is not ready for Opening Night. But with Grzelcyk hampered by a lower-body injury, rookie Urho Vaakanainen could find his way into the lineup.
"We have Grzelcyk, too, that's hopefully skating by Monday," said Cassidy. "To answer your question [about Vaakanainen], though, yes. He's been fine, real composed. He's been doing a real good job for us. Now, told him in NHL games when things ramp up a little bit it'll be a different animal, but from what we've been able to evaluate he's been very good."
Vaakanainen, who played 19:31 and assisted on Donato's goal, believes he is ready to play at the NHL level.
"I think I had a good training camp…I did my best, so I can be proud of it," said Vaakanainen. "I think I can play in the NHL. It's coach's decision, so just have to wait for it."
Video: Vaakanainen talks chances of making team
On to Washington
The Bruins finished the preseason 5-1-2 and now will turn their attention to Opening Night on Wednesday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.
"We're going to be able to look at this film, look at this video, continue to come together more and more as a team," said Charlie McAvoy. "A lot of the same faces as last year, so we're a confident group, and we will be all season. We love the guys we have in here. We're a really close team, and I think, once we get our full team back together, hopefully we'll hit the ground running."
While the Bruins had their share of success during the exhibition season, Cassidy said there is still plenty his team needs to shore up before Wednesday night.
"Our respect for the game. That means puck management, details, stopping and starting on pucks," said Cassidy. "Some of that you allow your veteran guys to play through in hope that their habits will come back to them quickly, but we have some guys that are second-year players that are struggling with that right now. They need to be reminded that 80-100 games under your belt is good, a good building block, but as [Zdeno Chara] pointed out you want to continue to establish yourself as a true NHLer.
"And I think our guys need to be reminded of the details of why they were successful last year. I think a few of them have gotten away from that, to be honest with you."
Video: Cassidy talks after final preseason game
Fourth Line Shines
Boston's new-look fourth line of Joakim Nordstrom, Noel Acciari, and Chris Wagner was perhaps the Bruins' best trio against the Flyers. The triumvirate combined for seven shots on goal, five of which came from Acciari, who played his natural center position.
"I think we created a bunch of chances. Made a great play in the first that I didn't bury," said Wagner, who was robbed by Brian Elliott early in the opening period. "We all work hard and Noelie works really hard too, so it's easy to read off each other. We kind of keep things simple, so it's nice.
"We'll see what Butchie decides, but I thought we played well…overall I thought we had a pretty good game as a line. It's something to build off for the regular season."
Video: Raffl leads Flyers past Bruins