VANCOUVER – Ryan Johnson hopes to make his footprint on the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs?with skate protectors.
The Vancouver Canucks centre said he will wear them for the rest of his career as he returns from a broken foot for the second time this season.
The 33-year-old Thunder Bay, Ont., native, who was set to return to the lineup for Game 3 against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night, learned his lesson the hard way. He removed his guards before he was injured while blocking a shot again late in the regular season.
“I put them back on,” he said after participating in Vancouver?s morning skate. “There?s no reason to go through that nonsense again.”
The decision to take them off forced the penalty-killing specialist to miss the first round against the Los Angeles Kings and the first two games against the Blackhawks.
But he is sporting a shaved-down version of the guards after removing them because they were catching on each other as he crossed his skates over on turns.
“It was driving me nuts, so I took them off and went back to normal,” he said.
His absence also proved painful for the Canucks as their penalty killers allowed 10 goals on 26 opportunities against Los Angeles in the first round. Although Vancouver?s shorthanded play has improved lately, it remains inconsistent.
“It was the hardest thing I?ve had to do in my career, sit up top (in the press box) and watch the team play alone,” said Johnson. “And then to have the struggles that we did on the penalty kill was, obviously, maddening.”
So was his decision to return to action earlier this season. He injured both feet, but decided to play through considerable pain and, at one point, found it easier to skate than walk. After returning, he called his decision to keep playing earlier “stupid”?and vowed not to do it again.
Consequently, his declaration of good health in the playoffs was not made lightly.
“Having to wince through games like I was after January, that was a concern of everybody?s,” said Johnson. “But I?ve had great (practices), and it?s continued to get better. That?s all I can ask. To be honest with you, I?m completely at full strength and there?s nothing that I?m battling through. There are some unknowns there, but it?s not nearly what I was dealing with after January.”
Johnson said he feels back to normal on the ice. Despite his difficulties, he vowed not to change or limit his “kamikaze” shot-blocking efforts.
“I wouldn?t come into this lineup with hesitation in my game and not to be able to do what I?m going to do,” he said. “If anything, I?ll be going out of my way to do it more, especially this time of year.”
Notes: Johnson said he would definitely play in Game 3, but Canucks coach Alain Vigneault tried to play coy. “I would say that he was day to day, and I would say that he?s ready to go,” said Vigneault.