DALLAS - The last time Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jack Johnson came to the American Airlines Center, on Nov. 13, he sat in the press box. Today, he’ll opt for a better seat…on the ice.
Johnson, who turned 22 on Tuesday, will return to action today against the Stars (11 a.m. faceoff) having missed the last 41 games due to a shoulder injury he suffered on Oct. 12. He was placed on the injured reserve list on Oct. 13 and he underwent shoulder surgery later that month.
“We were hoping (to come back) after the All-Star break, but the team is kind of desperate now and we need to win,” Johnson said. “I am trying to push things ahead.
“I don’t feel like it’s a risky move. I saw the doctors after the first period against the (Detroit) Red Wings Thursday night and they said I could play. I know there’s no risk involved in me personally. I know that I’m ready to play now.”
Head coach Terry Murray said he expects Johnson to play in 5-on-5 situations and possibly some penalty kill.
“He’s been practicing for a month, skating and feels good,” Murray said. “The speed of the game will be a little bit of a concern for us in the early going.”
Johnson has played in just two games this season with the Kings and has zero points and two penalty minutes. Needless to say, he’s a little anxious to strap it up.
“It gets old fast,” Johnson said of being injured. “I think the first month was the worse. Once I hit the midway point I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I started practicing with the team. The last few weeks have been a little bit anxious. I’m excited for today. I’m a little nervous.”
Don’t expect that left shoulder to hold him back.
“I think I’m going to dive right into it right away and see how it holds up,” Johnson said. “I don’t plan on hesitating at all. I don’t think I’d play unless I could dive right into it without thinking.”
Because of Johnson’s activation from the inured reserve, forward Brian Boyle was assigned to the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League.
Coach Terry Murray.
How much will Jack Johnson play today?
“We are discussing that right now. We weren’t sure how (Matt) Greene was going to be. He’s going to go through the warm-up and we’ll see how he’s doing. (Drew) Doughty feels good and wants to play so there are some decisions to be made.”
How will you use Johnson?
“We are going to use him on 5-on-5. He might get a little bit of PK time.”
Does it feel good to have Johnson back in the lineup?
“It’s good to have him back. We’ve missed him. He’s a young guy that has a lot of energy, a lot of good play in him. It’s a good thing to see him come back from the other side, the development side. Being a young defenseman it’s important to play the game. You can bring him in the meetings and diagram bunches of x’s and o’s on the boards. But you have to actually get out and play. He’s been practicing for a month, skating and feels good. The speed of the game will be a little bit of a concern for us in the early going.”
What do you expect to get out of Dallas today?
“We know that they are going to be a highly competitive game. Dallas has been playing extremely well here the last few weeks trying to get themselves back into a playoff spot like we are. They are really digging in and battling hard and we’ve got to be ready to do the same thing. We’ve got to settle ourselves down a little bit. We are lacking some confidence with the puck and I think if we approach it on the defensive side that will help our mindset.”
The offense has scored just two goals in the last three games. What’s your take on the offense?
“We had some great chances in our last game (against Detroit, a 4-0 loss). Right at the start we have a 2-on-0 and (Teddy) Purcell comes right in off of a rebound and normally he would put that right under the crossbar and it could have been a 2-0 game in the first five minutes. I think we are refusing to put the puck in the net at the right time. We are looking for one more play. That scoring mentality is an attitude to really dig in and do more, especially in the crease areas to make sure we’ve got traffic in front of the goals. All the little things and the clichés we talk about all the time really come in to play here.”
On any line changes expected for today’s game:
“We are going to do some different things here. On the offense part of the game we are trying to get some different looks together and find some chemistry on each line, trying to get some scoring from the primary scoring areas and then from the secondary lines. There will be some changes.”
On whether forward Kevin Westgarth will make his NHL debt today? He was a healthy scratch against the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.
“We have him penciled in to the lineup right now. The area that we are talking about right here before the game with some of the gray areas we have on the blue line with Doughty coming back, (Matt) Greene is banged up a little bit. So do we go with the seven defensemen or do we go with six with Jack coming in for his first game in almost 40 games. We are pushing that around right now.”
By William Wilkerson | Special to LAKings.com