GLENDALE, Ariz. — Ross Johnston perhaps wasn’t the main reason for Brock Nelson’s big night in Chicago on Saturday. But in his second NHL game, the hulking winger packed a lot into his 5:49 of ice time, and the Johnston-Nelson-Alan Quine line had a pretty solid outing in that 7-3 win.
“Sometimes you’re going through tough stretches, everybody says keep it simple, keep it simple. You kind of have to figure out what simple is,” Nelson said. “Sometimes it’s just getting back to basics. With Ross, it’s easy to know. He’s going to be up the walls, north-south, not going to try anything too crazy. Pretty easy to read off him.”
Nelson’s first goal in 18 games was a gift from Blackhawks goaltender Anton Forsberg, who misplayed Ryan Pulock’s dump-in and couldn’t find the puck at his feet. Johnston threw a backhand toward the crease and Nelson was there to put the loose puck home. Nelson added two assists for his first three-point game of the season, He had three points total in his 19 games before Saturday.
Doug Weight praised the recent play of Nelson, who has struggled through his worst stretch in the NHL the past two months. Without consistent linemates and occasionally without a consistent effort on and away from the puck, Nelson has seen his ice time dip under 12 minutes per game at times this season. He averaged 15:50 the previous three seasons.
“He did a heck of a job playing with some angst and some pace last game,” Weight said. “He knew where the puck was going . . . The results haven’t been there, but the last two, three weeks have been the Brock we’ve seen over the past few years.”
The 6-5, 235-pound Johnston, who got another call to the lineup here on Monday against the Coyotes, picked up his first point on Nelson’s goal, had a chance at a rebound earlier in the game and had his first NHL fight in the third when he dinged up Ryan Hartman.
“There was a lot going on that first game, but that’s good to get into it,” the 23-year-old said. “I’m a guy that’s going to make those simple, reliable plays; at least that’s what I take pride in doing. Any time that’s the result from my game, I’ll take it.”
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