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Johnson ready to build on experience

Notebook: Goalie embraces chance to play more games in Hartford this year

Thursday, 09.09.2010 / 4:47 PM / News
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Johnson ready to build on experience
 
Chad Johnson
Goaltender Chad Johnson was back on Training Center ice for the first time on Thursday. Pressed into action as a rookie last year, he said he'll be happy to spend the entire season in Hartford if it means he can get a chance to play in more games.
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By Jim Cerny, newyorkrangers.com

When the Rangers signed goaltender Martin Biron to a free agent contract on July 1, one might have expected the club’s top netminding prospect, Chad Johnson, to be upset about losing a potential opportunity to spend this season in the NHL as the back-up to Henrik Lundqvist.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

“I knew they were looking for somebody more of a veteran to be the back-up, which is a good idea” said Johnson, who joined more than 20 players at an informal group practice at the MSG Training Center on Thursday. “It’s a process; and it’s better for me to be in Hartford to develop my game. Obviously I want to be in the NHL, but for me it’s better to be down in Hartford playing a lot of games.”

Last season was Johnson’s first as a professional. And he spent much of it shuttling back and forth between the Rangers and the team’s AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack. In New York, Johnson primarily was the No. 2 netminder, though he did appear in five games, making four starts. The 24-year-old performed admirably at the NHL level, posting a 2.35 goals against average and .919 save percentage.

Johnson, who spent this past off-season working out in Western Canada with Capitals defenseman Mike Green and top Edmonton prospect Jordan Eberle among others, earned his first NHL victory on Jan. 31, stopping 34 of 35 shots in a 3-1 win in Colorado.

“Henrik collected the puck for me when the game ended and gave it to me in the locker room,” said Johnson. “Every day was a learning experience when I was up here. And it has made me that much more ready when my next chance comes.”

Johnson also appeared in a team-high 47 games with the Wolf Pack. He recorded 23 wins, three shutouts, and had a 2.54 goals against average and .911 save percentage. Often Johnson would back-up Lundqvist one night then head to Hartford the next day to play for the Pack. This year, if all goes according to plan, Johnson will only have to focus on being the No. 1 goalie in Hartford.

“But you never know what will happen,” Johnson said with a laugh. “Last year taught me to just go with the flow.”

Prospects get run of Training Center on Friday

Veteran Rangers will have a day off the ice on Friday because a group of the organization’s prospects will be practicing at the MSG Training Center in preparation for the upcoming Traverse City Tournament.

Hartford Wolf Pack head coach Ken Gernander will guide the prospects at the tournament. Rangers head coach John Tortorella will travel to the tourney to see how the prospects fare.

Among the prospects representing the Rangers are forwards Evgeny Grachev and Derek Stepan, defenseman Ryan McDonagh, and goalie Scott Stajcer.

The veterans get back to work on Saturday when it is expected that Alexander Frolov will join the mix. Frolov is scheduled to arrive in New York on Friday.