It would be his third game in the spoked-B and his first at home in the confines of TD Garden.
His first outing was a 5-2 win in Buffalo, with his most recent start coming 12 days ago on November 2 on Long Island. The B's lost that one, 3-1, in probably their worst loss of the season, and made sure to point to their effort in front of Johnson as the reasoning. Their all-around game never surfaced.
Despite only having played two of Boston's 17 games, Johnson keeps himself as fresh as possible.
"You see him every day, he comes out and is going to stay out there after practice and take some extra shots and try and stay sharp and that’s what Chad has done for us," Bruins Head Coach Claude Julien told media following the team's pregame skate.
We feel like we owe him one and we’re going to try to do everything we can to get him a win tonight. - David Krejci, on Chad Johnson
"I think, if anything, he’s had a great attitude. Hasn’t had the chance to play much, yet nothing’s diminished from his work ethic, from his attitude, from his demeanor. He still comes in and is a real good team player every day."
"So that’s what you want to see from guys like that. You always hope that when they do get their chance, they make the best of it and get what they deserve; and guys like that deserve success."
Any goaltender would tell you that practice reps are a far cry from game action. The speed of the game, variables, situations all ramp up considerably, no matter how intense practices get. So, the lack of that action can be difficult to adjust to, when you're not seeing it as consistently as the main starter like Tuukka Rask.
"It’s tough. The more you can get in games, the more comfortable you’ll feel and the more confident you’ll feel just having kind of a rhythm and a routine," said Johnson. "So it’s definitely a different challenge, but it’s one that I knew eventually was going to have to happen to get into the league."
"This is the role that I’m in and I’m just trying to take advantage of the opportunity."
Johnson made 31 saves in his last outing, often flashing the glove and stifling the Islanders' speedy attack in close on point blank chances, with the B's turning over the puck and allowing several odd-man rushes.
"That was a terrible outing by us," said Bruins alternate captain Chris Kelly. "And Chad works hard and he’s played well when asked upon and that’s exactly it; we want to come out and make the game as easy as possible for him and give him some help."
"It’s his third game of the season and we kind of let him down the second game against the Islanders," added David Krejci. "We feel like we owe him one and we’re going to try to do everything we can to get him a win tonight."
For a goaltender adjusting to a new team, it's a given that more time to understand his teammates' tendencies and the B's defensive system, the easier it is to communicate.
"Being able to watch [Tuukka] and the defensemen and kind of the interaction they have on the ice and the communication they have and the exchanges behind the net, there’s all little plays throughout games that can help each other out between the defensemen and the goalie," said Johnson. "And to be around and watch that, it helps me for my situation coming in tonight here."
In addition to just time and experience, getting that comfort level up on the ice often translates from interaction off the ice, too.
"I think for the most part, Chad’s a pretty quiet guy. But being around the guys more and more in the locker room, brings that confidence on the ice as well to communicate and talk with especially the defensemen, moving the puck and making certain plays," said Kelly.
"He’s getting more and more comfortable with the guys."
McQuaid Working Out
Adam McQuaid is still day-to-day and hasn't skated yet since leaving in the first period against Toronto on November 9 with a lower-body injury.
There was a good sign for Julien on Thursday morning, however, when he saw the defenseman workout out.
"I just walked in the room after morning skate and he was on the bike so that was a good sign for me," said Julien.
"He’s progressing, it’s just day-to-day and I don’t even know whether we’re going to take him on the trip [or not]...I don’t know what the situation is; probably know better either this afternoon or tonight – they might tell us he’s coming with us. I think a lot of it is dependent on how he was doing this morning."
In McQuaid's absence, his usual defense partner Torey Krug has been paired with Dennis Seidenberg. Krug is a left shot who's been playing the right side on the new pairing.
Seidenberg is often the one to switch sides and play on the right, depending on his 'D' partner. But it's something Krug is familiar with as well, having played on the right often with Providence last season.
"I thought, again, there’s certain things that when you play your off-wing or your off-side, it becomes a little bit more difficult to move the puck. So I think he did a pretty good job of finding the right passing lanes and everything else, so I thought he did well," Julien said of Krug's adjustment.
Without McQuaid out, Matt Bartkowski will be in the lineup for his second straight game, likely paired with Johnny Boychuk.
"He hadn’t played in a long time and so he’s got an opportunity here to maybe get on a bit of a roll," said Julien. "And hopefully tonight continues to be a good night and he keeps getting better and more confident."
The Blue Jackets may have a 6-10-1 record and be coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals, but their effort as of late is more of the Bruins' focus than their results.
"This is a team that I don’t want to spend too much time looking at their record more than I want to spend looking at their game; and they compete hard," said Julien.
"They compete really hard and I thought last game they had as good a chance to win as anybody and unfortunately Washington tied it there with a few minutes left. But they played well; they’re physical, they’re aggressive, they don’t make it easy."
"It was the same thing in Columbus; they were hard on us and we had to really work to score goals."
In the teams' last meeting on October 12, the Bruins earned a 3-1 win, but had trailed most of the game until Chris Kelly tied it up 1-1 in the second.
Boston Projected Lineup
Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Jarome Iginla
Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Loui Eriksson, Jordan Caron
Carl Soderberg-Chris Kelly-Reilly Smith
Daniel Paille-Gregory Campbell-Shawn Thornton
Zdeno Chara-Dougie Hamilton
Dennis Seidenberg-Torey Krug
Matt Bartkowski-Johnny Boychuk
*During pregame rushes, Chara, Hamilton and Boychuk all rotated at one end, with Seidenberg, Krug and Bartkowski at the other.
Starter: Chad Johnson
Backup: Tuukka Rask