Penguins Notebook: Once healthy, Johnson will be No. 2 goalie
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Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and Brent Johnson cleared up two things Friday about the backup goaltending spot.
Bylsma said when Johnson gets healthy enough to return to the lineup, he will resume his role as the No. 2 goalie behind Marc-Andre Fleury. Johnson admitted he had a setback in his recovery from an undisclosed injury and now is being smarter about things.
"A lesson well learned because I came back a little bit too early and hurt myself a little bit. This time, I took a little bit of time with it," said Johnson, who has missed the past 14 games.
He was skating earlier in his recovery, had to step back and then returned to the ice this week for three workouts separate from the team and practice Friday at Southpointe.
Although the Friday practice was highly optional -- the five players on the ice outnumbered coaches by one -- Johnson said he is fully cleared for practice.
"I'm still not 100 percent," Johnson said.
"I want to make sure everything's ready to go before I get back out there in a game situation.
"It's feeling better and better every day."
He and Bylsma would like for Johnson to get into a game or two before the playoffs.
With only nine games left over just 15 days, Bylsma said that "there are probably three or four more opportunities for games that Marc won't play yet this year."
Rookie Brad Thiessen is expected to get a start this weekend, but Bylsma declined to say whether that might be tonight at Ottawa or Sunday night at home against New Jersey.
Johnson, 35, was strong in 2010-11, going 13-5-2 with a .922 save percentage and a 2.17 goals-against average.
He has struggled this season. He is 3-7-2 in 13 appearances with an .882 goals-against average and a 3.17 goals-against average.
Thiessen is 3-0 with an .897 save percentage and a 2.68 goals-against average.
Defenseman Matt Niskanen and center Joe Vitale did not travel with the Penguins to Ottawa and likely won't play against New Jersey because of undisclosed injuries.
Niskanen left the 5-1 win Thursday against Nashville. Vitale has missed the past three games, although he skated before practice Friday for the second day in a row.
Ben Lovejoy is expected to replace Niskanen in the lineup. As the club's seventh defenseman, Lovejoy has sat out the past five games and 21 of the past 28.
He expects to be ready.
"That's my job right now," Lovejoy said.
"My job is to be in shape and ready to go when and if something happens. I don't know if I'll be in [tonight], but, if I am, I'll be ready."
Lovejoy, who missed a month and a half earlier this season because of a broken wrist, has a goal, four assists, 30 hits, 31 blocked shots and a plus-minus rating of plus-2 in 32 games.
"Numerous time he's been put back in and done a great job," Bylsma said.
"He's a guy who can defend and skate against anybody in the league. He's not a guy you put in and have to hide his minutes and be worried of who he's playing against.
"He's ready to go back in and ready to play good hockey for us. On the road, he's going to be out against some good players, which he's confident [about], and we're confident he can do -- and has been able to do -- for us."
Lovejoy participated in the optional practice, along with Johnson, Thiessen and forwards Dustin Jeffrey, Richard Park and Eric Tangradi.
About 2,000 tickets for each of the Penguins' first two home playoff games will go on sale at 10 a.m. April 3.
The Penguins clinched a playoff spot Thursday night, but their first-round opponent and schedule have not been determined.
Tickets will be available at www.ticketmaster.com, at the Consol Energy Center box office, at Pittsburgh area Ticketmaster locations, or by calling Ticketmaster, 1-800-745-3000.
A lottery system will be used at the in-person locations.
Matchup: Penguins vs. Ottawa Senators, 7:08 p.m. today, Scotiabank Place, Ottawa.
TV, Radio: Root Sports, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Craig Anderson for Senators.
Penguins: Are 13-0-1 in past 14 games. ... Their .667 winning clip when being outshot ranks second in NHL. ... Brooks Orpik is one assist shy of 100 for his NHL career.
Senators: Are 2-1 vs. Penguins. ... Are 7-5-3 in second half of back-to-back games. ... Are among NHL's worst at home on penalty kill (76.5 percent).
Hidden stat: Penguins are 27-0-3 when leading after two periods.
First Published March 24, 2012 12:00 am