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Morning Skate: Trip of a Lifetime for Johnson

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
A trip of a lifetime for Jack Johnson and his family.

Just after Ukraine, and just before Uzbekistan, Jack Johnson became an Olympian.

Johnson made a significant investment, in terms of time and money, to travel to Vancouver for Friday night's Olympic opening ceremony, but described the feeling of marching into the stadium as one that he could barely put into words.

"It was a great experience," Johnson said Saturday morning. "It was probably the coolest thing I've ever done, and it was worth every minute of it to get there."

After tonight, when the Kings host Colorado at STAPLES Center, Johnson will return to Vancouver to prepare for the hockey tournament, which starts Tuesday. Johnson, Dustin Brown and Jonathan Quick are members of Team USA, while Drew Doughty will represent Canada and Michal Handzus will represent Slovakia.

Johnson grew up playing in the USA Hockey program, and has also taken particular pride in wearing his country's jersey, so when the schedule presented an opportunity for Johnson to march in the opening ceremony, he didn't hesitate.

At his own expense, Johnson secured a flight north for himself, his parents and his brother, then ensured he would return in time for Saturday's morning skate.

Johnson got a look at the Olympic village and became the first active NHL player to march in an opening ceremony for the United States. Johnson said he got to walk in with snowboarding star Shaun White and said he enjoyed the entire experience.

"The whole ceremony was incredible," Johnson said. "From start to finish, there wasn't a dull moment in the entire thing. I took as much video and photos as I could. Like I said before, it was something I'll remember for the rest of my life."

Team USA essentially will play every other day, at the start of the tournament. That will give Johnson some time to attend other events, which he plans to take advantage of.

"We're going to have chances to, and I plan on going to as many events as I can," Johnson said. "I already got to know a few of the athletes, and that's what I want to do. I want to get to know as many of the athletes as I can. That's part of the Olympic experience, interacting with them and cheering them on. They said they want to watch us and cheer us on as much as they can, as do I with them."


The Kings will make one lineup change tonight, with Randy Jones replacing Davis Drewiske on defense.

Jones had been a healthy scratch in the Kings' previous three games.

"Some of the conversations we have had are just that he needs to be better," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "He knows he can be, and he was when he first got here. He was a very good player for us. The injury set him back, and he's been working very hard in the practice, so it's time to play a game before the break."

Drewiske has been in and out of the Kings' lineup since he returned from a shoulder injury last month. The rookie has eight points and a minus-3 rating in 40 games.

"Physically, now, he's fine," Murray said. "He's ready to go. The other side of it, though, is always the most difficult with a player coming back from an injury like that. It's the emotional part of it. He's coming into pretty intense games, too, very meaningful games obviously, so everybody is playing hard and you've got to make sure that you're going out and playing with a little bit of that recklessness, almost. I think there's some hesitation that he's got to come to grips with through the break."


After tonight's game, the Kings' non-Olympians will go into an NHL-imposed break. The Kings will return to practice on Wednesday, Feb. 24, and are scheduled to practice for six days before their season resumes with a March 2 game at Dallas.
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