Justin Florek will take any job he can get in Boston. (Getty Images)
Justin Florek did not spend the offseason teaching himself to shoot right-handed. Other than that shortcoming, he feels he has done his best to position himself for a spot in Boston this season.
Florek, the Bruins’ fifth-round pick in the 2010 draft, got into four regular season and six postseason games for the Bruins as he got his first taste of the NHL. It was almost immediately apparent when he got into the lineup during Shawn Thornton‘s suspension that the then-23-year-old was capable of handling fourth-line minutes in the NHL, but as he enters the upcoming training camp, he does as just one name on a list of players competing for a place with the B’s.
“It’s going to be a tough battle,” Florek said Thursday. “It’s going to be a great camp, and I think the compete level is going to be the highest that I’ve ever seen. It’s going to be a lot of fun; it’s going to be a good challenge and all the guys that are fighting for that spot are really going to have to fight for it. It’s going to be good.”
Once Reilly Smith signs, the Bruins’ top two lines will be set in stone, but there are questions from there regarding who will play on the third line with Carl Soderberg (and presumably Chris Kelly), and which players will make up the fourth line.
The most glaring opening on Boston’s roster is on the third line right wing, but there’s also an open competition for other bottom-six spots, including the fourth line center position. Possibilities include Gregory Campbell being moved to wing and Daniel Paille being moved to the third line.
Amidst all the uncertainty, Florek just knows he wants to be in Boston. His chances might be better if he were a right shot. David Pastrnak and Seth Griffifth are right shots, but the Bruins’ young wingers with more experience, such as Florek, Jordan Caron and Matt Fraser, are left shots.
In his time in Boston last season, Florek played mostly left wing. He’s played on the right side, however, and he said that if he were to end up being needed on the right side on any line (perhaps replacing Shawn Thornton on the fourth line), he’d be able to do it.
“It is [different] but it also has it’s advantages, coming down, shooting one-timers off the off-side,” he said of playing his off wing. “It’s just going to take a lot of work along the wall in my own zone for breakouts, but that’s something I pride myself on. If I continue to work on it, I think I’ll get there.”
The most logical roles for Florek on the NHL roster would figure to be on one of the fourth line wings or as a 13th forward for now. The latter will become more possible if the Bruins are to find a trade for Caron.
Florek is a big boy at 6-foot-4 and 194 pounds, which would allow the Bruins to get younger on the fourth line while also remaining tough, and with two full years of AHL experience, using him as an extra forward wouldn’t hurt his development as much as it might hurt a less experienced player.
If it came down to being an extra forward in the NHL or playing regularly in the AHL, Florek’s preference is clear: Though he’s played only 10 games for the B’s, he doesn’t want to be anywhere else.
“My goal – everyone’s goal – is to make it to the NHL,” he said. “Whether I’m the 13th forward or I’m down in Providence, I’m going to work my hardest to get in that lineup and just contribute anywhere I can to help the B’s win.
“If it’s as a practice guy, I’m just going to help the guys compete every day and try to fight my [way] into the lineup. That’s kind of the way my whole career has been, is working my way up along the way. I’ll do whatever it takes, and from an organizational standpoint, I’ll do whatever they need me to do.”