How much action will Brent Johnson see?
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Q: With Marc-Andre Fleury missing extended periods of time due to injury over the past two seasons, as well as the Penguins' long playoff runs, do you see Brent Johnson playing 25 or more games this season? It seems like he was signed because of the large amount of back-to-back games, with the Olympic break coming in the middle of the season.
Andrew Kosek, Sunbury, Ohio
MOLINARI: Unless Fleury sustains another of those major lost-time injuries, the thinking here is that he probably will get about 65 starts this season.
Bringing in Johnson as a free agent was a pretty shrewd move by GM Ray Shero -- Johnson has a modest salary and experience at being a No. 2, so he's learned to stay reasonably sharp despite extended periods of down time -- but Fleury is the Penguins' franchise goalie, and should be used as such.
That doesn't mean he should carry the kind of workload Martin Brodeur used to get in New Jersey, with 75 or so starts in a typical regular season, but he's only 24 years old, and there's no reason to think that he'd get worn down from playing three-quarters of the schedule.
Now, if Fleury ends up as Canada's No. 1 goalie for the Olympics -- a long shot at this point, but something that shouldn't be ruled out -- the Penguins might want to rethink exactly how much they use him, but that's probably the only thing other than an injury that would lead to Johnson getting more than 15 or 20 starts.
Q: Do you think that the increasing prevalence of high-definition broadcasts in homes will increase casual viewership of NHL games? It seems like people having an easier time seeing the puck should entice casual sports fans to tune in and pay more attention.
MOLINARI: Seems perfectly logical, especially since there are a lot of people who believe that hockey, more than any other sport, benefits from high-definition TV.
One suspects, though, that the challenge will be getting those casual fans to tune in in the first place. Sure, you might get some who just happen to be channel-surfing, see something that grabs their attention and decide to hang around for a while, but it really does seem as if there just aren't that many lukewarm hockey fans.
People who love the sport would watch any game they could on a snowy, black-and-white, nine-inch screen and the many who don't pay attention to it wouldn't bother looking out the window if Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final was being contested in their backyard.
First Published October 14, 2009 12:00 am