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Bruins feel they owe Chad Johnson a better game 11.14.13 at 12:53 pm ET
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With Chad Johnson set to get his first start of the season at TD Garden, the Bruins are plenty motivated to give him a win. Given what happened the last time he played, they owe it to him.

Johnson hasn’t played since Nov. 2 against the Islanders, which was probably the Bruins’ worst game of their early-season dip. Johnson allowed three goals on 34 shots in a 3-1 loss, but it was the play in front of him that was the Bruins’ undoing. The Bruins gave up odd-man rushes and were dominated by New York’s top line of John Tavares between Thomas Vanek and Kyle Okposo in a night in which Zdeno Chara was a minus-2.

“That was a terrible outing by us, and Chad works hard and has played well when asked upon,” Chris Kelly said after Thursday’s morning skate. “We want to come out and make the game as easy as possible for him and give him some help.”

The good news for the Bruins is that they have slowly begun to turn the corner since that loss. The B’s have gotten seven of an eight possible points since then, and with a win over the Blue Jackets Thursday they can wrap up their five-game home stand with nine of a possible 10 points.

“I think every game becomes a new challenge, right?” Claude Julien said. “I liked the way we played the last few games; Toronto and obviously Tampa and seeing them turning the corner but that has to continue tonight. I think that’€™s the challenge that teams have all the time, is not to rely on the fact that you’€™re playing better lately but fight and keep it going. So I think that’€™s what everybody’€™s hoping to be able to do tonight is to keep our team going in the right direction.”

Johnson had said Wednesday that it was tough waiting for his next start given how ugly the last one had been, but the team’s improved play certainly suggests things won’t be as bad Thursday as they were last Saturday.

As for how Johnson has looked this season, he falls under the category of guys who haven’t really been given a chance to hit their stride. He and his teammates know it, as he was less than spectacular in allowing two goals on 16 shots in his Bruins debut against the Sabres. Of course, the Bruins gave him a chance to win in that game — and they did with a 5-2 win — which is far more than could be said for Johnson’s second game.

If there’s any silver lining to that loss going into Thursday, it’s that there’s far less of a chance of the Columbus matchup being a trap game. The Blue Jackets are better than their 6-10-1 record would suggest, and their effort Thursday should be matched by a Bruins team trying to make things up to Johnson.

“We kind of let him down in his second game, against the Islanders,” David Krejci said. “We feel like we owe him one and we’re going to try to do everything we can to get him a win tonight.”

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Chad Johnson to start for Bruins Thursday at 11:42 am ET
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Chad Johnson was the first goalie off the ice in Thursday’s morning skate, meaning he will be between the pipes when the Bruins face the Blue Jackets Thursday night. It will be Johnson’s first start of the season at TD Garden.

Johnson, who was signed in free agency to replace Anton Khudobin, has played very sparingly this season, starting just two of the Bruins’ first 17 games as Tuukka Rask has played the most of any Bruins goaltender in Boston under Claude Julien through such a stretch.

Johnson gets the start with the Bruins having a pair of back-to-backs, as they will play the Senators Friday in Ottawa and then have games Monday and Tuesday against the Hurricanes and Rangers, respectively.

On the season, Johnson is 1-1 with a 2.53 goals-against average and .900 save percentage.

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Chad Johnson ready for more work 11.13.13 at 1:33 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — If Tuukka Rask has played more than any Bruins goaltender under Claude Julien through the first 17 games of a season, that would mean that backup Chad Johnson has played the least of any Bruins goaltender under Claude Julien through the first 17 games of a season.

With just two games under his belt, Johnson is both happy to help the team however he can and eager to get back between the pipes. After all, Johnson says, “you’re only as good as your last game.” That’s not so great when your last game was the Bruins’ worst of the season, a 3-1 mess against the Islanders on Nov. 2.

“It’s tough in this sort of 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. For me, sometimes it’s two weeks. It’s sort of tough to deal with sometimes, but you just be mentally strong and worry about having good practice and be ready for an opportunity when it does come up again.”

The reason it’s been all Tuukka all the time around these parts is largely because of the Bruins’ schedule early on, with lots of days off between games and only two back-to-backs to this point.

“It’s tough only playing in two games in two months, but that’s the situation, right?” Johnson said. “The more you play, the more comfortable you’ll get. It’s kind of like anything you do. The more you play, the more confident you’ll be, the more comfortable you’ll be. For myself, now that the first month’s over, getting in more games will help a lot more to get in more of a rhythm and feel more comfortable.”

Indeed, the opportunities should increase in the near future. The Bruins’ next four games are parts of back-to-backs, as they play Thursday and Friday and then Monday and Tuesday.

“I think it was pretty obvious with the slow start that it allowed us time to get [Rask] going again and get some rest, but the schedule will get heavier and we’re going to have to lean on Chad more and more,” Julien said. “We know that he’s in situation where he hasn’t played much and we need to allow him to find his groove a little bit if we expect to get some positive performances from him.”

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Chad Johnson finally nearing first start of the season 10.21.13 at 8:42 pm ET
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WILMINGTON — Former NFL receiver Chad Johnson has gotten as much ice time this season as Bruins goaltender Chad Johnson, but that’s going to change.

With lots of off-days and no back-to-backs, the Bruins have been able to play Tuukka Rask in each of the first seven games of the season, yet with a back-to-back this week in Buffalo Wednesday and home against the Sharks Thursday, Johnson is finally closing in on his first game action of the season. Claude Julien said Monday that Wednesday could be the day for him.

“We’ll probably give him a shot there at some point, and Buffalo might be one of the games we give him,” Julien. “We haven’t made that final decision yet, but I will put him on notice and give him an opportunity. We’re going to have to use him at some point and that might be a good chance to use him then.”

Johnson, 27, has been waiting patiently to make his regular-season Bruins debut. He shut out the Red Wings in his final preseason start, but noted Monday that “preseason doesn’t count.” What does count is what will happen this week, and he’s had plenty of time to prepare. Johnson said there’s a learning process even for goalies as they get into new systems, so coming from Phoenix to Boston has required some adjusting on his part.

“I think it’s just sort of getting comfortable,” he said. “I think for myself and the team,it’s maybe just getting adjusted to the way I play and how they like to play certain situations, like on the penalty kill and situations like that — where they give the goalie the player and where they take away and certain situations. There’s always those little things throughout the game that happen that they build relationships with.”

Rask has allowed more than two goals just once this season and on Saturday he picked up a shutout against the Lightning. That’s a tough act to follow, but Johnson is eager to see what he can do behind what’s been a relatively stable group of defensemen.

“There’s a good team here that knows how to play good defensive hockey,” Johnson said. “For myself I’m excited to get the season going and get kind of into things. It’s been a little bit of a wait here, but that’s just kind of the situation here with the games this first month, so for myself I’m definitely looking forward to getting into some games and getting on a roll and into a good routine here.”

Johnson has played only 10 career NHL games, but if his season debut is anything like his first start of last season, the B’s will be in good hands. Johnson made 21 saves in a shutout against the Predators.

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Chad Johnson turning his training camp around 09.23.13 at 2:15 pm ET
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Though his preseason had an ugly start, Chad Johnson clearly isn’t ready to give up on an NHL job with the Bruins.

Johnson, who was signed as a free agent this summer following the departure of Anton Khudobin, wasn’t anything special in the first few days of training camp and then turned in a woeful performance in his preseason debut, allowing three goals on eight shots against the Canadiens last Monday. The first of those goals came when he couldn’t glove an easy wrister and allowed the Habs to score on the rebound. Though it was just the first game of the preseason, it looked as though Niklas Svedberg may have become the favorite by not even playing.

Yet Johnson’s second start was drastically different. Playing the whole game against the Red Wings Saturday, Johnson stopped all 18 shots he saw in a shutout performance that he felt was more like him than his other start.

As things stand right now, the competition for Tuukka Rask‘s backup job would seem to remain open between Johnson and Svedberg. As Johnson looks at things, he doesn’t feel his poor first impression should be read too much into.

“It was my first period in three months. I obviously didn’t finish last [season] in the NHL, so you’re coming in having to adjust to the speed and getting comfortable there,” he said. “There’s obviously a little bit of an adjustment, so I was trying to catch up to pucks that first game and trying to get comfortable. There’s going to be mistakes and it didn’t go the way I wanted it to, so I just wanted to regroup and get back to my game and do the little things and get comfortable in the game like I’ve always done.”

Johnson, 27, is a veteran of 10 NHL games. In four games last season, he went 2-0-2 with a shutout while posting a .954 save percentage and 1.21 goals-against average.

The former Ranger and Coyote has played the vast majority of his professional career in the AHL, but he says that he actually finds it easier to get good reads on plays at the NHL level, since players are making less mistakes.

As such, he’s trying to making the most of whatever preseason ice time he can get at the NHL level, regardless of whether he sticks in Boston for the season.

“I think the way I play and the way my style is, it suits the speed and the style of the NHL game,” Johnson said. “That’s why I think I’ve always had success at this level. Down in the minors, it’s a different game, different speed. Guys have a little more time, they miss their shots, they miss their passes.

“For me, it’s hard to read the plays sometimes because they don’t happen the way they should happen. At this level, and in the last game, you can read plays and see things happen. For myself at this level, it helps my game because I like to see everything in front of me and make reads so I have success when I’ve had the opportunity to play at this level.”

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Chad Johnson, Carl Soderberg lift Bruins over Red Wings 09.21.13 at 10:00 pm ET
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Chad Johnson bounced back amidst a shaky preseason and Carl Söderberg scored twice as the Bruins beat the Red Wings, 2-0, Saturday night in Detroit.

Johnson, who had allowed three goals on eight shots Monday in Montreal, stopped all 18 shots he saw vs. the Red Wings. This came two days after the Red Wings (with a stronger lineup than the one they iced Saturday) scored eight goals on Malcolm Subban.

Söderberg, meanwhile, was playing on a line with Chris Kelly and Reilly Smith for the first time this preseason. As things currently stand, that is a good bet to be the Bruins’ third line when the season starts next month.

Patrice Bergeron played, marking the the first time he has done so this preseason. Both Bergeron and Gregory Campbell have recovered from their injuries suffered in the postseason.

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Chad Johnson not making strong case for backup job 09.17.13 at 8:40 am ET
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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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