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Avalanche Skate: Jack Johnson ‘Excited’ to be Back in Denver



I can’t remember the last time the Colorado Avalanche had a more popular player in the locker room than Jack Johnson.

And now he’s back.

“I’m excited,” Johnson said after morning skate. “I woke up this morning, and I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe I was back. Really excited to get going and play with these guys again.”

Johnson was mobbed by reporters after his first skate back with the team, and answered questions for around eight minutes. He was always gracious with the media last season, so no real surprise that he’s still that way. The veteran defenseman will immediately step into the lineup tonight against Vegas, and judging from morning skate, he’ll be paired with Brad Hunt.

On a poor team in Chicago, Johnson knew a trade was likely, but he didn’t ask out.

“I never asked for anything,” Johnson said. “The GM in Chicago was unbelievable with his communication with me and said there was an opportunity to come back, and he’d like to help do that for me.”

Much like the acquisition of Matt Nieto a month ago, familiarity is a big part of this pickup. The Avalanche know what Johnson brings, and he knows what’s expected of him.

“I might have some questions here and there throughout the game, but like I said, hopefully it’s pretty seamless,” Johnson said.

His head coach, Jared Bednar, is happy to have him back.

“I think it’s a great trade for us,” Bednar said. “Experienced guy. Solid, steady defender. Great penalty killer. Adequate puck mover. Played great for us last year when things really got ratcheted up. Had a big impact on us winning, especially in a defensive role.”

Bednar knows what the analytics say about Johnson. He doesn’t care.

“His underlyings were terrible when we got him the first time,” he said after morning skate. “Some of the worst in the league. I felt like he did a heck of a job for us and helped us win a Stanley Cup.”

They’ll need Johnson tonight, as they take on the top team in the Western Conference.

“Last 10 games, they’re the hottest team in the league,” Bednar said. “Their underlying numbers show they’re scoring and creating scoring chances as much as anyone in the league, and their defending numbers are equally as good. It’s a tough team.”

The Avalanche will have to play without Cale Makar for at least one more game. He took morning skate with the team, but was in a non-contact jersey. He’s not quite ready to play, but is doing well. They will also be without Kurtis MacDermid, who is in concussion protocol after his big fight with Milan Lucic on Saturday.

Alexandar Georgiev will start in net.

The matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights starts at 7 PM MST.

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