New Flyers defenseman Johnson wants to help any way he can

Erik Johnson

      TAMPA – Knowing the Flyers were in need of immediate help on defense, general manager Daniel Briere went with someone he was quite familiar with and trusted.

      That would be Erik Johnson, a teammate of Briere’s on the 2014-15 Colorado Avalanche.

      So Briere completed a deal with Buffalo just before the NHL trade deadline clock struck 3 p.m. on Friday.

      The GM hopes the 35-year-old Johnson, just like the Flyers’ 36-year-old Marc Staal, can help out with some of the young players in the team’s locker room.

      Coach John Tortorella confirmed Johnson would be in the lineup for Saturday night’s game against the Lightning.

      Just getting out of Buffalo was good news for Johnson. The Sabres haven’t been relevant in over a decade.

      Now he joins an up-and-coming Philadelphia team which has plenty of energy and only might need a little more veteran guidance.

      “I hadn’t played for the last week or so for trade-related reasons,” Johnson said after Saturday morning’s skate at Amalie Arena. “So I knew something was coming, just didn’t know when.

      “At the end of the day, this is where I wanted to be. They pulled the trigger after that.”

      Johnson won the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche a couple years ago so he knows what it takes to win it all. That can prove invaluable for a team on the rise.

      “I’m super excited to be here,” Johnson said. “Play some big, meaningful games the next stretch here. I have a good relationship with Danny Briere. I played with him in Colorado his last season, 2014-15. I had (Flyers assistant coach) Brad Shaw, the D-coach, in St. Louis and I had ‘Torts’ (Tortorella) at the Olympics and the World Cup.

      So I’m real familiar with the staff here. Just pumped to be a Flyer. It’s an unbelievable organization, with great culture, great history.”

      As for being a mentor, Johnson more than welcomes that role.

      “For me, it’s about lending any experience I can to these guys,” Johnson said. “Providing any minutes I can and just being accepting of any role to help this team get to the playoffs.”

      Johnson said he’s kept in touch with Shaw over the years so no doubt that figured into Briere’s decision to make this trade.

      “I have a good relationship with him,” Johnson said of Shaw. “Like I said, I’m here for anything they need. You check your ego at the door. It’s about winning. It’s about building the culture and continuing to go on a big playoff push.”

      Getting to know young guys such as Cam York can make a big difference when it comes to lending guidance.

      “The biggest thing is I try to be approachable,” Johnson said. “A lot of younger guys may be a little nervous around me. For me, I enjoy talking to the younger players, getting to know them and help them with whatever they need.”

      Johnson rattled off some big names who helped him when he was a youngster.

      “They made me feel comfortable and when you’re comfortable you’re a better player,” Johnson said. “Young guys are sponges. They see things and it rubs off on them.

      “I had really good guys like Keith Tkachuk, Paul Kariya, Doug Weight – even guys like Danny (Briere) and J.S. Giguere. A lot of really good veterans. You pick up little pieces from each guy, find out what works for you. Even a guy like Nate MacKinnon in Colorado, how he prepares, you find things from different guys.”

      Tortorella has no problem incorporating another experienced hand into his lineup.

      “He (Johnson) is a good person,” the coach said. “He’s a good man, a good pro.”

      >Gurianov ready to go

      Forward Denis Gurianov, acquired in a trade with Nashville for Wade Allison on Friday, skated with the team on Saturday morning and said he was ready to play if called upon.

      “I think it’s a great opportunity for me,” he said. “I hope I can help this team make the playoffs.”

      Gurianov said his game is built on speed.

      “Fast,” he said. “Backchecking, forechecking, keep it simple.”

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About Wayne Fish 2426 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.