Goalie Chad Johnson makes his first NHL start here after replacing Henrik Lundqvist for the final two periods in the 6-0 loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 30 and stopping 17 of 20 shots.  Johnson, 23, who was acquired from Pittsburgh for a fifth-round pick at the June draft, was doing his usual stretches in the corridor before the game.

            Johnson was shipped to Hartford to shake off the rust and won two games last weekend, allowing just three goals.

               "This is the game we wanted him to play," said coach John Tortorella. "It's a back to back situation. He’s going to play some games for us, so whenever we get a chance to get him some games (in Hartford) we will. He was put into a tough spot there (against the Flyers). The first goal (and the first shot), it’s a breakaway goal. I thought he rebounded after that. Any minutes you can get is going to help him. But this is his first start and I’m sure he’s a little nervous, but it’s good for our club, I hope our club plays around him, understands the situations and does the things they need to do to try to help him."

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            Johnson is veteran goaltending coach Benoit Allaire's pupil, and Allaire reports on his progress daily to Torts. But Tortorella, who confesses that he doesn't get involved in the technical details of netminding, can judge some things for himself. "The thing with Johnny is he’s a very calm guy in the net,"  he said, "the puck hits him. We saw that in Traverse City when he played there (in the annual pre-season prospects tournament), he fills the net and there’s not a lot of wasted motion."

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             Tonight''s starters: Del Zotto, Girardi, Gaborik, Christensen, Dubinsky....Aaron Voros is scratched for the third straight...Johan Hedberg is in the net for the Thrashers

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             Vinny Prospal skated for about 40 minutes this morning and reported very little soreness in his knee after surgery Dec. 28. He is probably a week away from playing if all goes well.