Johnson, Svedberg Battling For Backup Gig In Beantown

Chad Johnson is on the precipice of becoming a full-time NHL goaltender for the first time in his career (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

Chad Johnson is on the precipice of becoming a full-time NHL goaltender for the first time in his career (Photo: Mike Ashmore)

BOSTON — For the first time in a long time, the Boston Bruins have a goaltending roster spot up for grabs.  Tuukka Rask, of course, isn’t going anywhere.  But with Anton Khudobin having left to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes, the battle to back up the incumbent Rask seems to have settled on Chad Johnson or Niklas Svedberg.

Suffice it to say, the preseason looms large for both men.

“These two weeks, it’s like every day is important,” Svedberg told The Trentonian.

“You want to get better every day, and camp is important.  You want to prove yourself.  I want to focus on doing the best that I can.  It’s up to me to play good enough to prove that I should play here.”

As for Johnson, despite having the edge in NHL experience — ten games to Svedberg’s zero — he may be a bit behind the eight ball after his first performance, a lackluster effort in which he made just five saves on eight shots.

“Obviously, the last game didn’t go the way I wanted it to, and it was disappointing for sure,” he said.  “I just didn’t get in the flow, it was one of those weird games, especially for my first one.  I just wasn’t comfortable.  So for me, in these two weeks I can regroup and just play my game, get back to why I have success.  These two weeks are big for me for sure.”

Johnson is looking to avoid a return to the American Hockey League, where he’s spent the majority of his now five-year pro career as a member of the New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes organizations.  To even have the opportunity to compete for a full-time job in the National Hockey League, something he was never going to receive in either system, “means a lot” to him.

“My time in New York, some situations, no matter how you play, they have guys there.  Starters or backups, it doesn’t really change because they have themselves established,” he said.

“To be able to come here and have an opportunity to battle, it’s huge.  I’ve had success when I’ve played in the NHL, so to be able to have the opportunity to be here at the start and earn a spot right off the bat, it’s obviously a huge opportunity.  All you can do is go out there and play your best and try and earn a spot in the short period of time that you have to prove yourself.  Looking back, I just didn’t really get an opportunity in New York, and this is why I signed here.”

The situation is a bit different for Svedberg.  A 24-year-old Swede entering his second year in North America, Svedberg was outstanding in the AHL last season, putting together an All-Star season in which he posted a 2.15 goals against average and .925 save percentage in 48 games for the Providence Bruins.

When asked if it would be a disappointment if he had to go back down for another year of seasoning, Svedberg’s answer made it clear he feels like he’s ready for this opportunity.

“Yes, it would,” he said.  “We’re here and we’re competing for spots, and my goal is to make the team.  That’s all I focus on.  What happens later, it’s something to deal with later.  Right now, my focus is to stay up here.”

But in the end — unless Malcolm Subban plays out of his mind in the preseason — the job is likely Johnson’s to lose, with his 1.97 goals against average and recent success (1.22 GAA in four games with Phoenix just last season) playing a big role in that thought process.

“Every game I’ve played in the NHL, I’ve done really well,” Johnson said.

“So for me, I’m not concerned about being able to play at this level, because I’ve done it in every single game that I’ve played.  I’ve played in ten games and done well in all of them, so for me it’s just coming here and proving myself in the short period of time we have.  For me, that’s my mindset right now.  If I earn that opportunity, I’ll continue to do the same things I have in the past and have success when I do play.”

Mike Ashmore, mashmore98 AT


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