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Talks with Krueger helped bring Johansson to Buffalo

'He's got some really good ideas on how to play,' forward says of Sabres coach

by Jourdon LaBarber @jourdonlabarber /

Positive conversations with coach Ralph Krueger and excitement regarding the Sabres' young players were factors that helped bring Marcus Johansson to Buffalo, the forward said during a conference call with the media on Monday. 

Johansson signed a two-year, $9 million contract with the Sabres on Saturday, the latest move by general manager Jason Botterill geared toward upgrading the team's depth at forward. 

"I think talking to Ralph and Jason, I like what Buffalo's got going," Johansson said. "Talking to Ralph, he's got some really good ideas on how to play, and it's a really young and exciting team. I'm looking forward to it and once it came down to it, I was really happy I ended up going to Buffalo."

Prior to signing Johansson, the Sabres addressed their forward group by re-signing Jeff Skinner to an eight-year contract and adding Jimmy Vesey in a trade with the Rangers. Curtis Lazar and Jean-Sebastien Dea were added on July 1 to bolster internal competition and organizational depth. 

Botterill said after acquiring Vesey that he'd like to give Krueger as many options as possible when it comes to crafting his lineup, placing an emphasis on players with positional versatility. Though Johansson has primarily played left wing in recent seasons, he entered the league as a center and said he's willing to revisit the position if needed. 

"I think wherever I can help and play I'm here for it and whatever they need me to do," he said. "I've played both. I've played mostly left wing over the last however many years, but whatever they need me to do I'm up for it. 

"That's why everyone comes to play, you want to help the team win. That's my main focus. If it's at center, it is, and if it's at left wing I'm happy to do both."

The addition of Johansson also bares similarities to recently acquired defenseman Colin Miller in that both players come to Buffalo with extensive playoff experience. Johansson has made the playoffs in all but one of his nine NHL seasons, including a run to the Stanley Cup Final with Boston this past spring.

Johansson was reinvigorated upon joining the Bruins at the trade deadline after concussions limited him to just 77 games during his season and a half with New Jersey. He combined for 30 points (13+17) in 58 regular-season games with the Devils and Bruins, then tallied a career-high 11 points (4+7) in 22 playoff contests. 

The 28-year-old forward has played 94 postseason games in his career, 69 of which came during his seven-season run with the Washington Capitals. 

"You've got to make sure everyone is comfortable," Johansson said when asked how his experience can help a young Sabres dressing room. "You have to make sure everyone is open about things. It has to be a positive vibe. You have to want to move forward together. It's a game of mistakes and you've got to be able to make mistakes and move forward and not dwell too much on things that go wrong. It's such a long season. 

"If you get everyone on the same page and work together, and if there are mistakes you work on them together and you learn from it. Move on. Especially with a young group, that's very important."

That forward-thinking attitude echoes Krueger's approach, as does Johansson's description of the playing style in Washington and Boston that he said brought the best out of his game.

"It was the defense we played, trying to get the puck back as quick as possible and play offense," Johansson said. "Then being able to do what you're good at, use your offensive skill a lot. I think that made guys very comfortable offensively on both teams. 

"I don't think Ralph is very different than that either. The skill that Buffalo has with Jack Eichel and Skinner and even on defense with Rasmus Dahlin and all those guys, I think that's going to help them too."

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