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Chad Johnson not making strong case for backup job

09.17.13 at 8:40 am ET

Last year, it was a question of whether the backup could become the starter. Actually, it was a question of whether there would be hockey. But before and after that, it was a question of whether the backup could become the starter.

Now, with Tuukka Rask clearly a No. 1 goalie and certainly being paid like one, the only question the B’€™s have in net is who will back up him up. As the games begin and training camp hits its second week, one of the most important jobs up for grabs remains just that.

The Bruins have two options to replace Anton Khudobin in Nicklas Svedberg and Chad Johnson, the latter of whom was signed on the opening day of free agency for $600,000, or $200,000 less than what Khudobin got when he departed Boston for Carolina in free agency. After a less-than-impressive first few days of camp, Johnson had a much-less-than-impressive performance in Monday’€™s preseason opener against the Canadiens.

Johnson, 27, was given a one-way contract in the offseason with the hope that he could be like Khudobin: a guy who hadn’€™t played more than 10 games in the NHL over the years, but was seasoned enough that he was ready for a backup role at the highest level.

On Monday, Johnson struggled right from the first shot he faced. The former Penguins fifth-round pick couldn’€™t glove a shot from Louis Leblanc, letting the puck bounce off his glove to set up a Travis Moen goal. He was also beaten cleanly by a P.K. Subban shot that was far from the laser Tim Thomas likely still has nightmares about. Given that there wasn’€™t much traffic and the shot was glove side, Johnson should have seen it the whole way and at least gotten his glove on it, but it cruised past him for the second of three goals he would allow on eight shots.

Johnson, who has played 10 career games and had strong performances in his time with the Coyotes last season, has been just as underwhelming in practice. He’€™s got the right attitude and has had his hands full while practicing with a group that includes David Krejci‘€™s line, and the good news for him is that the B’€™s should and likely will take their time in making their decision. That gives Johnson some time to settle down and shake out what seemed to be some pretty apparent jitters Monday night.

Monday’€™s struggles aside, both Johnson and Claude Julien have said that after about a week of practices, games are where players will be able to separate themselves. In Julien’€™s words, some players can be ‘€œpainful to watch’€ in practice and excel in games, or vice versa. Johnson agrees, but he still needs to find a place to excel.

‘€œA lot of the stuff you do in practice really isn’t game situation style,’€ he said prior to Monday’€™s game. ‘€œGames are completely different. You have different momentum and different pressure throughout games. For the most part, you can’t really base a lot on practice. Obviously you want to have good practices — it carries over to the game — but for the most part it’s all about how you do in the games. That’s why you’ve got exhibitions here to kind of get in and show what you can do.’€

Given Johnson’€™s struggles, Svedberg, who was the AHL’€™s top goaltender last season with Providence, should have the edge in the competition. Should Svedberg make the jump, Johnson would have to be paid his NHL salary at the AHL level, where he would likely split time with Malcolm Subban.

Julien, who admitted to not knowing much about the goalie prior to Peter Chiarelli signing him, recently defended Johnson. Julien said he liked what he had seen from the goaltender, who picked up a 21-save shutout against the Predators in one of his four starts last season.

‘€œHe’€™s had some years in the minors and I think he’€™s had some games in Phoenix and he’€™s had some decent numbers and played well enough to consider signing him. Again I’€™m not going to sit here and say I was the one pushing for it because I haven’€™t seen him play that much. Our pro scouts and Peter have watched and played enough that he certainly deserving of being brought into our organization and battling for that backup spot.’€

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