As the schedule dwindles down to some playoff-less have-nots, tonight we get another angle for entertainment: With yet another injury to a lineup more than half full of rookies, the New York Islanders have recalled Justin Johnson for his NHL debut at age 32.
You might recall Johnson was signed to a (two-way) NHL deal a little over a month ago, in what was more of a goodwill gesture than a long-term strategic move. A nice reward and paper for a lot of hard work in the minors:
To this point, Johnson believes everything he has earned in hockey has been both a blessing and a bonus.
Still, there have been times, particularly since he passed 30, when he wondered whether he was holding on to the game too long. He says he wants to be a husband and a father, and find out what there is for him professionally after his playing days.
"Am I falling behind?'' he asks himself. "Am I taking this too far?''
Funny thing, though -- at 32, he keeps adding chapters to his unlikely tale.
Now with Islanders bodies -- even the emergency promoted ones like -- dropping left and right, Johnson gets to add one more chapter to his tale.
There's no stat or angle here: Johnson has one goal, four assists and 183 penalty minutes in 48 games with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Rather, it's just another nice little gesture for a game that has virtually zero standings implications, though obviously a lot of individual stakes.
Eric Hornick adds some perspective on the rookie influx:
Johnson will be the 14th rookie (13 skaters + Anders Nilsson) to appear in a game this season for the Isles and the 7th to make his NHL debut since the Olympic break. The Isles used 15 rookies in 2009-10 but three of them were goalies, so the 13 rookie skaters is their most since they also used 13 rookie skaters in 2008-09.
Johnson joins a cast of recent Sound Tigers that surprised the Canadiens last night in Montreal with a 2-0 win. Both last night and in several of their recent games, the Islanders have quietly played well, actually.
The Devils, for their part, petered out in their playoff chase, a victim of a baffling inability to win a single shootout, and a maddening addiction to playing Martin Brodeur 2014 as if he was Martin Brodeur '90s.
But with the Isles rookies, their recent play, and the Johnson "Rudy" debut, for pure hockey interest and a bit of human interest tonight offers a little something beyond two playoff-less teams playing out the string.
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