The Los Angeles Kings were dealt a devastating blow Thursday.
No, it wasn't the 2-0 loss to a division rival that stings the most.
It was the injury to Mikey Anderson just 1:28 into the game. Anderson was drilled from behind by Connor McDavid and didn't return.
There's still no official word on Anderson's health, but the team re-calling Tobias Bjornfot on an emergency loan points to Anderson missing a few games.
Losing Anderson is tough, but as Todd McLellan's mentioned several times before, an injury gives other players a chance to prove themselves.
And Bjornfot should be given that chance.
He's not a one-for-one replacement for Anderson and I wouldn't throw him on the top pair. Yes, he has some experience playing alongside Drew Doughty, who's previously complimented Bjornfot's game, but asking him to play top-pair minutes is too much.
Instead, Vladislav Gavrikov should move to the top pair, Sean Durzi should move back to the left next to Matt Roy and Bjornfot should play on the third pair with Sean Walker. Leaving Alex Edler out of the lineup.
I think Edler gets a lot of unwarranted hate from Kings fans, but he's struggled as the pace has ramped up in the last two games and giving him a break won't hurt. The Kings also play back-to-back games this weekend, meaning Edler will sit a game regardless.
We saw last year that Bjornfot and Duriz don't work well as a pairing, granted they suffered from a low on-ice save percentage, so the Kings shouldn't go back to that pairing. But they know Durzi and Roy work together and should be confident that Gavrikov and Doughty will work out.
Leaving Bjorfnot with Walker. Walker's caught a lot of hate from Kings fans this season, not without some reason, but he's still an experienced and capable NHL defenseman. He'll give Bjornfot a reliable and predictable partner to play off.
Bjornfot's played well with the Ontario Reign and spent significant time playing top pair minutes in the AHL. Bjornfot's built confidence in the AHL to complement an impressive toolkit. Talking to people within the organization, there's still a lot of confidence in Bjornfot. Assuming he can bring that confidence to the NHL level.
He's a smooth skater who can use this to his advantage on both sides of the puck. He's never been and never will be a big-time point producer, but he has the ability to activate and join the rush.
His skating also helps him play the left side in the Kings' system. Playing that side means he has to get more aggressive in the neutral zone and having the ability to pinch and recover is big.
Last season he tended to get lost in his own zone, chasing the puck and pulling himself out of position. But that's been less of a problem down in Ontario. He's also coming off a hot stretch in Ontario with four points in his last five games.
Bjornfot is a part of this team's future and now is a time to get him more NHL reps in meaningful games. Calling him up just to sit him in the press box is a waste of everyone's time, he should suit up for most games while Anderson is out.
If he impresses, he should suit up for game one.