SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Anders Bjork couldn’t wait for his return to Notre Dame upon hearing the news of the Bruins-Blackhawks tilt in the 2019 Winter Classic during his challenging rookie season. But the former Hobey Baker finalist found a roadblock too big to overcome.
The second-year forward struggled with injuries and consistency during his first year and a half in Boston. He saw his ice time diminish as Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen surpassed the once highly-hyped prospect on the depth chart.
Bjork appeared ready to shake off that rookie season. He couldn’t. This forced Don Sweeney’s hand as the Bruins GM sent Bjork down I-95 after the 22-year-old tallied a mere three points in the first 20 games of his second Boston stint.
The disappointed Bjork still communicated with his fellow peers — including DeBrusk — leading up to the 11th installment of the Winter Classic.
“I talked to Bjorky [Bjork] about it as well to find some place to go eat, or things to do around here,” DeBrusk said about his chat with Bjork.
DeBrusk and the rest of the Bruins soaked in the Notre Dame allure during their first two days in South Bend. Bruce Cassidy did as well. He also had other important things on his mind from naming his starting goaltender to deciding the healthy scratches.
The third-year Bruins bench boss tabbed Tuukka Rask as the team’s starter in their first outdoor game since the debacle against the Montreal Canadiens three years ago at Gillette Stadium. A day later, he scratched Ryan Donato — another struggling young gun — and Steven Kampfer.
The busy Cassidy didn’t have the same communication with Bjork leading up to Tuesday’s tilt. Bjork is finding his groove down in Providence. The two will convene again if and/or when Bjork returns to Boston.
“Listen, he’s going to be disappointed that he’s not here just like the guys that aren’t playing,” Cassidy said. “It’s a special event. It’s not just an ordinary game. So for the guys specifically that are here that aren’t playing, the communication is more with them because they get left out of this game — they have families that are here — and those are the tough calls.
“With Anders, again I’m sure more than anybody he would’ve liked to play here. But he’s in Providence trying to get better. We’re focused on the guys that are here, and I understand that he is getting better and that’s great. Hopefully, he’s part of the Bruins roster when we feel he’s ready. So that’s it with Anders. We’ll chat at some point.”
That chat may not come this year, or even at all. Bjork is one of the young names appearing on the trade rumor mill. But Sweeney should give the former Notre Dame standout at least one more look in Boston before his decision.
Missing out on the Winter Classic is Bjork’s lowest point of his professional career. His future depends on his response to the disappointing news.
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