With Mike Smith sidelined due to a groin injury and backup Jason LaBarbera struggling, the Phoenix Coyotes turned to Chad Johnson, who had been recalled from the AHL’s Portland Pirates following Smith’s injury. In two games, Johnson has a shutout, 0.98 GAA and has helped the team collect three of a possible four points.
Johnson turned aside 21 Nashville Predators shots in a 4-0 win, his first appearance for the Coyotes and just his seventh ever in the NHL. Coach Dave Tippett turned to Johnson again Wednesday night, and the AHL veteran allowed just one regulation goal against the highly-skilled Edmonton Oilers offense.
A goal by 2012 first-overall draft pick Nail Yakupov got by Johnson in overtime, giving the Coyotes a tough loss but still salvaging a point. In six appearances for the New York Rangers, Johnson had a 1-2-1 record. The former University of Alaska-Fairbanks (CCHA) goaltender had a 14-8 record with the Pirates this season, along with two shutouts.
He signed a one-year, two-way deal with Phoenix in the offseason after spending three seasons in the Rangers’ system, most of it in the AHL. He won 22 games for the Connecticut Whale last season, while posting a 2.49 GAA. Johnson was a fifth round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2006 draft, and was traded to the Rangers in 2009.
Smith is expected to return as early as Friday, which likely means Johnson is headed back to Portland. His strong performance will make him the first choice in case of another injury, or if LaBarbera continues to struggle.