All Nick Bjugstad needed to break his scoring drought was some encouragement from Jaromir Jagr and a little monkey named Annabelle.
Bjugstad had a rough start to the season. He sustained a broken hand in the preseason, didn't play until Nov. 22, then didn't score a goal in his first 13 games.
But Jagr promised Bjugstad a monkey for Christmas and couldn't wait to hand it over once Bjugstad scored his first goal of the season against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. Credit Keith Yandle with the assist (he brought the primate to the rink).
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It wasn't a real monkey, though this one might be about as close as you could get while staying on the right side of the law. According to the manufacturer, Annabelle is fully poseable and made of a lifelike vinyl with a cloth body for optimal hugging and cuddling, and she's handpainted to look extra realistic.
And it appears Jagr has been thinking about this whole monkey thing for a while.
"He keeps telling me he is going to buy two monkeys, one for me and one for him," Bjugstad told TSN. "I keep trying to tell him it's illegal to own a monkey, or something. I don't know what we'd do when we go on the road."
Jagr has done nothing if not proven he is determined.
"You know how on Christmas morning, some people get a ring at the doorbell and there's a big package with a bow on the top?" Jagr said. "There's going to be a monkey inside for [Bjugstad]. It's going to be awesome."
Well, obviously Jagr couldn't wait for Christmas because Annabelle made her first appearance in Bjugstad's locker on Thursday. No word if Jagr got one for himself, but he can add another accolade to his impressive career: elite gift-giver.
The Panthers will need a spark for a return to the postseason, and maybe this cuddly, snuggly rally monkey is the answer they've been looking for.