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Johnson gets the nod against the Blackhawks

Chad Johnson will make his eighth start of the year tonight when the Flames host the Blackhawks

by Torie Peterson @ToriePeterson / CalgaryFlames.com

CALGARY, AB -- Glen Gulutzan is going back to Chad Johnson.

After posting a combined 0.50 GAA and a .979 save percentage in back-to-back games against the Minnesota Wild and Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday and Wednesday, the netminder has earned his eighth start of the season tonight when the Calgary Flames host the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I thought both games he wasn't overworked but he made the saves he needed to make," Gulutzan said after Friday's morning skate. "(He's) just a real calm, steadying influence for our group.

"When a goalie of his caliber gets going, you let him go."

In Tuesday's 1-0 win over the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center, Johnson made 27 saves in his first shutout of the season. He followed that up with a 20-save performance in Wednesday's 2-1 overtime victory over the Coyotes at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

That kind of workload suits Johnson just fine.

"The more you play, the comfortable you're going to feel and the more confident you feel. It goes hand-in-hand, with comfort and confidence. That's how I've felt the last little bit here, the more I've played."

Not only have the Flames gotten strong performances from the 30-year-old but they have shored up play in their own zone. Keeping traffic out of the slot and limiting rebound opportunities have been a focal point in recent practices and video sessions and that work has paid off.

They were particularly strong defensively on Wednesday. As per HockeyStats.ca, the Flames were dominant puck possession-wise (68.3 percent) during five-on-five play and held the Coyotes to five even strength quality scoring chances.

"The last two games especially, we knew that we were going to play some teams that were good defensively as well and we weren't going to get a lot of goals," Johnson said. "From the very start, it was a focus of ours to have a better defensive game as a group. We've had that these last two games. As a goalie, that effects our numbers and how we look."

Tonight's game poses a different challenge. The Blackhawks are well-known for their potent offence, sitting seventh in the league in goals-scored with 53, and three of their forwards are in the top-20 in the NHL scoring race: Patrick Kane (18 points), Artem Anisimov (17 points) and Artemi Panarin (16 points).

"They're obviously more offensive, more skill up front ... but I think for us, we want to have the same game," Johnson noted. "We want to play the same game we have (lately), defensively. It's going to be tougher game, more of a challenge, but I don't think we really want to change our approach.

"We want to be as strong as we have been defensively. They're going to put pressure on us, we can't change that. We've just got to play our game."

In seven games this season, Johnson is 4-2-1 with a 2.24 GAA and a .915 save percentage. He signed a one-year deal with the Flames as a free agent this past summer.

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