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Blake was a rookie once too

Times Staff Writer

A promising young defenseman leaves college early and immediately gets a taste of what life in the NHL is all about.

That will be Jack Johnson tonight. That was Rob Blake in 1990.

Johnson, who left Michigan and signed with the Kings on Tuesday, makes his NHL debut tonight, repeating the journey Blake made when he left Bowling Green. Blake played four games with the Kings at the end of the 1989-90 season, an invaluable primer. The next season, he was on the NHL all-rookie team.

“It was huge getting that chance right away,” Blake said. “It gave me an idea what to expect the following September. Jack has a chance to get familiar with the practice facility, the arena and Los Angeles itself.”

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Blake had no goals and no assists in his first dip into the NHL pond. “The first game was really a blur, but the best part was getting into the mix right away,” Blake said. “It was a chance to look at what the job is all about.”

And Blake can mentor Johnson.

“I’m sure when we get on the road, we’ll have some dinners and we’ll talk a lot,” Blake said. “The big thing is also that it is great for the fans. They have all heard of him, now they get a chance to see him.”

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Johnson was eager to get a chance to go play in Vancouver, site of his on-ice incident with Steve Downie during a game between the U.S. and Canada at the World Junior Championship two years ago. Johnson clipped Downie with an elbow.

“It’ll be fun to go back there,” Johnson said. “I kind of got a kick out of all of that. There were 20,000 fans buying tickets so they could boo me. I hope they still remember me and have not forgotten it all.”

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TONIGHT

vs. Vancouver, 7:30, FSNW

Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- 1150.

Records -- Kings 26-37-14, Canucks 46-23-7.

Record vs. Canucks -- 1-1-0.

Update -- The Kings’ center Derek Armstrong, out nine games because of a knee injury, listed himself as “probable” for tonight’s game.

chris.foster@latimes.com


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