BUFFALO – Chad Johnson was the first goaltender off the ice for the Bruins during morning skate at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, and confirmed he’ll be getting his first start of the season against the Sabres. The 27-year-old hasn’t played in a month since blanking the Detroit Red Wings during preseason action on Sept. 21, and is looking forward to getting in some game action after watching Tuukka Rask play the first seven games of the regular season.
He'll be managing his adrenaline more than any anxiety once the puck is dropped.
“It’s probably more excitement than nervousness wanting to get things rolling," said Johnson, who is 3-2-3 with a .929 save percentage and a 1.97 goals against average in 10 career games for the Rangers and Coyotes.
"Practices are a lot different than playing in games, so you want to get that flow and energy going with momentum swings [in games] and everything else. It’s about getting your instincts back, and just letting that go to work.”
In some ways Buffalo might be the perfect setting for a goaltender looking to shake off some of the rust. The Sabres have stumbled out to a 1-8-1 start to the season, have a minus-15 goal differential and boast the worst offense in the NHL at 1.2 goals per game through their first 10 tilts.
Pop gun offense doesn’t even begin to describe things for a team that should be better with guys like Thomas Vanek, Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford on board. So while Johnson will likely get challenged, it might be the right team to allow him to gather momentum and strength as the contest rolls on.
Claude Julien said the Bruins weren’t thinking that, however, when setting up the schedule for Johnston tonight in Buffalo, and Tuukka Rask tomorrow night against the undefeated San Jose Sharks.
“It may look like it’s us putting Johnson in against a weak team, but it’s a situation where we’re finally playing our first back-to-back games,” said Julien. “We wanted him to be there for us, and it wouldn’t matter who we are playing. It would be wrong to think we’re putting him in because of the team we’re playing against.”
One thing is for certain: Johnson will be keeping things simple between the pipes to start.
“If I’m stacking the pads then that’s something I don’t normally do,” said Johnson. “I’m very simple and in position to meet the pass. It’s a simple game for me.”
Johnson worked diligently during training camp to make sure that he’d be in the position to backup Rask to start the season, and Wednesday night in Buffalo begins his journey to keep that gig for this season and beyond.