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Johnson Enforces the Idea His Shot Can Be Effective

It was textbook: a flash from left to right, in front of San Jose goalie Mike Vernon, and the Kings’ Ian Laperriere slapped the puck from near the boards to Matt Johnson.

He had left Bob Rouse in his wake and merely stuck out his stick to redirect the puck into the net Wednesday night.

Vernon never had a chance.

Johnson had his second goal of the season on only his second shot.

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“The guys had a pretty good laugh at that,” Johnson said. “They told me to shoot more.”

He shoots that same shot dozens of times a day at practice, always with a mission:

“I’m trying to improve my game so I can play in more situations. I don’t want to be a liability on the ice.”

Johnson’s role is that of enforcer, which means taking care of any physical problems that the opposition might present. At that he is good, because he is an intimidating force with a reputation.

Part of that reputation was fashioned when he knocked out the Rangers’ Jeff Beukeboom on Nov. 19 and drew a 12-game suspension from the NHL.

Wednesday’s game was his second since serving the suspension.

“It feels good to be back into things,” he said. “When you’re out like that, you really don’t feel a part.”

He was not forgotten. His teammates took up a collection believed to have totaled $10,000 to help defray earnings lost because of the suspension.

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The reputation remains.

“Guys try to goad me into penalties,” Johnson said. “Like [Wednesday night], guys like [San Jose’s Jeff] Norton try to goad me. They’re not going to fight me. I know that.

“But if they can get me in a penalty, it’s to their advantage.”

At game’s end, Johnson had no penalties and one goal. And the Kings had a 5-1 victory.

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The Kings have won four of their last five games, all with Jamie Storr as goalie, and he has given up six goals over that time.

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There was good news and bad news to Rob Blake’s three crushing checks during a five-on-three San Jose power play Wednesday.

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“They had two two-on-ones and one three-on-one situation” as a result of his taking an opponent to the boards, Blake said. “But Matty [Mattias Norstrom] knows how I play and could take care of it. And Jamie made some huge stops.”


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