Jack Johnson set for first game in Columbus since signing with Penguins
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Around this time of year, it’s not uncommon for players swapped at the NHL trade deadline to talk about wanting to prove their old teams wrong for letting them go.
There’s none of that in Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson.
On Tuesday night, Johnson will face his old team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, for the first time since signing a five-year deal with the Penguins in July. He spent six-plus seasons with the Blue Jackets, playing a key role on the team’s blue line before slipping down the depth chart at the end of his final season.
After morning skate Tuesday, he sat in his locker and ran down a list of reasons why he felt no particular anxiety or animosity building up for the game later in the day.
Nearly a full season has passed since he left Columbus. He already faced the Blue Jackets on Nov. 24 in Pittsburgh. He’d been in the visiting dressing room at Nationwide Arena before as a member of the Los Angeles Kings. The Blue Jackets have turned over a good portion of the roster with a series of in-season trades.
In other words, nothing to see here.
“Pittsburgh’s home for me now,” Johnson said. “I’ve got a lot of relationships here in Columbus. I was able to come in and have dinner with my family and that’s always awesome. I had a lot of great teammates over the years here.
“I’ve played almost a full season in Pittsburgh. Played Columbus early in the year, got that out of the way. It’s a big game for both teams now.”
A minor war of words broke out in the media between Johnson, Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, Columbus coach John Tortorella and GM Jarmo Kekalainen immediately after the signing. Johnson said that’s ancient history.
“I didn’t even give that a second thought,” Johnson said.
As for wanting to prove the Blue Jackets wrong for letting him go?
“I’m just trying to help the Pittsburgh Penguins win,” he said. “That’s it.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .