Few NHL players are enjoying a better 2016 than Brad Marchand, but the calendar year did not start off so pleasantly for the white-hot Boston Bruins winger. 

A low hit on Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki on Dec. 29 resulted in Marchand being suspended for Boston’s first three games of the New Year, including its disastrous loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the NHL Winter Classic.

He did not return to the Bruins’ lineup until Jan. 9 and then proceeded to struggle through the next three contests, failing to record a point and managing just five total shots on goal.

Since then, however, Marchand has been an unstoppable offensive juggernaut. He tallied an assist in a Jan. 15 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, then racked up 12 goals over the following 12 games, including at least one in 11 of those 12. His goal in Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild was his team-leading 27th of the season, putting him on pace to shatter his single-season career high of 28.

“As you can see, the impact he has on our hockey club is huge,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said Saturday in a postgame interview with NESN’s Jack Edwards and Andy Brickley. “And we didn’t only lose him for three games. We lost him for at least six, maybe even seven, because when he first came back, he just wasn’t himself again. So, that was a big loss for us. But to have him playing the way he is now, you take advantage and look at the present, not the past. And right now, we’re happy to have him in our lineup.”

They certainly should be. In addition to pacing Boston, Marchand also was tied for fifth in the NHL in goals as of Saturday evening. No Bruins player has even finished in the top 10 in that category since 2003, which also was the last time a Bruin topped 40 goals. (Glen Murray notched 44 that season, good for fifth in the league.) If he keeps up his current pace, Marchand will finish with 42.

Oh, and during Marchand’s 12-game hot streak, the Bruins have gone 8-3-1 to vault into second place in the Atlantic Division.

“I think it’s just that I’m benefiting from really good teammates right now,” Marchand said in an interview with NESN rinkside reporter Sarah Davis. “Guys are playing really well, and I’m just on the other end of that.”

Thumbnail photo via Brad Rempel/USA TODAY Sports Images

Thumbnail photo via Boston Bruins forward Brad Marchand