Left out: Aaron Johnson making best of tough situation
|05.12.13 at 1:36 pm ET|
TORONTO — Hey, remember Aaron Johnson?
With the Bruins definitely without one lefty defenseman in Andrew Ference in Game 6 and potentially without another in Wade Redden, the left-shooting Johnson — on paper — would appear to be a logical option for Claude Julien. Johnson’s been skating with the team regularly as he waits for his opportunity, though it’s one that won’t likely come.
Said Johnson Sunday: “I have been skating every day and playing every day and doing whatever possible, other than playing in game situations.”
And that’s the conundrum. It’s been a whole lot of “other than playing in game situations” for Johnson, as the last time he played in a game was on March 30. The Bruins wanted to send him to Providence late in the season in order to get him into some games, but they weren’t able to send him down for a conditioning assignment without having to put him through the waiver process.
Now that they could use him, that lack of game action makes him borderline untouchable (unless as a last resort) in the playoffs, as the Bruins simply can’t trust someone who’s played so little in such a key spot.
“It’s been tough for Aaron,” Julien said. “For me, it’s about what players are allowed and not allowed to do. We would have loved to give him an opportunity to play and play in Providence, but the CBA doesn’t allow it, and it’s kind of played against him and right now we have a player that hasn’t played in a long time. It’s tough for him.”
With Matt Bartkowski figuring to play in place of the injured Ference, the Bruins would be left with Johnson and Dougie Hamilton as potential replacements for Redden if the veteran blueliner (termed a game-time decision by Julien) can’t go.
In that case, the right-shooting Hamilton would get the call over Johnson based on the fact that he’s sharper. Hamilton played more regular-season games and has gotten into one playoff game already, though Game 2 created issues that would likely arise again if the rookie plays Sunday.
Because Hamilton would be replacing a left-shot, the Bruins would need to take Dennis Seidenberg off the top pairing to give them another left-side defenseman. That didn’t work out in Game 2, when the B’s played their defensive game of the series and Seidenberg was on the ice for three goals against. Playing Johnson would avoid having to break up that shutdown pairing, but it would also bring too much uncertainty to such an important game.
Johnson, who understands his situation but hasn’t moaned about it, stayed out longer for the morning skate with the rest of the healthy scratches Sunday. He knows that Sunday would have been a potential opportunity for him to play, but that his lack of games (12 in the regular season between Boston and Providence and none in over a month) makes his chances remote. If he does get the call, he’s certain that rust won’t be a factor.
“I think it’s just a matter for myself, staying ready, if that call does come to just play my game,” Johnson said. “I mean, I’ve played this game for a long time now, 10 years professionally. There’s no secret recipe. You just kind of go out and play your game. Obviously it will be a little faster in [the postseason], but I think when that happens, you just try to keep it simple.”