BOSTON -- Bruins backup goaltender Chad Johnson has played only two games this season and both have been on the road, but he will make his TD Garden debut Thursday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Boston starting goaltender Tuukka Rask is 10-4-1 with a 1.53 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage in 15 starts, but with the Bruins playing back-to-back games Thursday and Friday (at Ottawa) this gives coach Claude Julien a chance to start Johnson, who is 1-1-0 with a 2.53 GAA and a .900 SP in his two games.
“It’s always nice to play in front of the home crowd and the fans,” Johnson said. “It’s always fun to be a part of that, a part of the Bruins, the atmosphere and energy of the TD Garden. It would be nice to get a home game, but for me it’s about getting as many games as I can and winning them and helping the team in any way I can.”
At the start of training camp, the Bruins had three goalies -- Johnson, Malcolm Subban and Niklas Svedberg -- competing for the backup role. While both Subban and Svedberg need more time in the AHL to develop their skills, the 27-year-old Johnson has spent the majority of his pro career in the AHL and also has 153 games of NHL experience.
With Rask expected to play a career high in games this season, Johnson earned the job as backup. Julien said he’s been impressed with Johnson, despite the lack of playing time.
“If anything, he’s had a great attitude,” Julien said. “He hasn’t had a chance to play much, but nothing has diminished from his work ethic, attitude and demeanor. He still comes in as a real good team player every day, but that’s what you want to see from guys like that. You always hope when they do get their chance they make the best of it and get what they deserve and guys like that deserve success.
“It was pretty obvious with the slow start, as far as the schedule is concerned, that it allowed us time to get [Rask] going again and get some rest,” explained Julien. “The schedule will get heavier and we’ll have to lean on Chad more and more. We know he’s in a situation where he hasn’t played much and we need to allow him to maybe find his groove a little bit if we expect to get some positive performances from him.”
The Bruins did not play so well in front of Johnson during his last start on Nov. 2 at the New York Islanders and Boston suffered a 3-1 loss.
“It’s tough in sort of that situation,” Johnson said. “You play a game and you might not get another one for a week or two weeks. You’re only as good as your last game and for me sometimes it’s two weeks, so it’s sort of tough to deal with sometimes. But you have to be mentally strong and worry about having good practices and be ready for the opportunity when it does come up again.”
Since he’s been on the bench for the majority of the season, Johnson has been able to watch Rask up close, which is something Johnson also was able to do when he played in New York and was the backup for Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.
Johnson said that both those goalies have similar traits, but he’s been impressed with Rask.
“The consistency and the way he plays and how competitive he is,” Johnson answered when asked what he’s learned from watching Rask. “They have two different styles, but they both compete so hard. They have the passion to win and be the best at their position. Tuukka’s so athletic. Henrik can be athletic as well, but the way Tuukka plays allows him to use his athletic ability a little bit more.
“His confidence and his composure, he’s getting good results right now in the way he’s playing. He’s so relaxed and that’s what I’ve noticed from him,” he added.
Thursday night, Rask will get a rest and will be watching Johnson as he attempts to help the Bruins continue their three-game winning streak.