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Johnson eager to help Jackets turn around fortunes

by Shawn P. Roarke /

Jack Johnson, the newest member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, won't make his debut in Friday's game against the Colorado Avalanche.

He has yet to pass the physical upon which Thursday night's trade from Los Angeles is contingent, so he will have to wait until Sunday, in Pittsburgh against the Penguins, to begin the newest chapter of his career.

But it is clear from his comments that Sunday can't come soon enough for Johnson, who was sent to Columbus along with a conditional first-round pick by the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for forward Jeff Carter.

"I'm excited by this," Johnson told Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch. "I'm excited to go to a team that wants me, and to play in a great sports city.

"I want to be part of the solution there. I know they've had some bad breaks and some tough seasons, but it's going to be great when it turns around. Really, I don't think there's anything sweeter in sports than being part of a team when they get it turned around."

When he makes it to the ice, Johnson will likely be a top-pair defenseman -- especially with James Wisniewski out through injury.

The 25-year-old is a big-bodied defender with the ability to hit and clear his own crease. He also has some pretty impressive upside. In fact, Johnson was a key of the United States Olympic team that took home silver two years ago.

He has 8 goals and 24 points this season, but is just a seasons removed from a 42-point campaign.

"He's a potential No. 1 defenseman, in my mind," Howson said. "He's a 22- or 23-minute guy. He's a great skater. He doesn't tire when he skates.

"I'm excited about (our defense). It has a chance to be a really good NHL defense. We still have some young players back there who are going to get better, but it's mobile, it's big, and it's got some skill."

Plus, Johnson, who will wear No. 7 when he does take the ice, is also signed for a long term at a fairly palatable price.

The No. 3 pick in the 2003 Draft is signed through the 2017-18 season at a cap hit of $4.36 million.

Johnson is also familiar with the area. He grew up in Michigan and played his college hockey with the University of Michigan, a Big 10 rival of Ohio State University, which calls Columbus home.

"This is going to be great," Johnson said. "I'm a Midwestern boy at heart, and I see this as a great opportunity. I can't wait to get there and meet the guys."

Columbus also made a move Friday morning to replace Carter on the roster, calling up Cam Atkinson, their leading scorer with American Hockey League affiliate Springfield.

Atkinson, 22, has registered 29 goals and 44 points and has a plus-4 plus/minus rating in 50 games in his first professional season. He is tied for the AHL lead in power-play goals (13) and is second overall in goals.

Atkinson, who played at Boston College, has played five games with Columbus this season, scoring 1 goal and registering a minus-6 rating.

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