Johnson Brothers Excel In Utah, Bridgeport

By Michael Fornabaio
Connecticut Post Online

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — It’s a good time to be one of the Johnson brothers. Keith (pictured), a rookie, is lighting up the ECHL for Utah. And his big brother, Gregg, has earned regular playing time for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Though Gregg’s numbers aren’t as gaudy, his contributions are solid for a player who has usually relegated to fourth-line time. He scored his first goal Saturday night in Albany; he didn’t get a point but set a screen on another goal Sunday. And he hasn’t rated a minus in his past nine games. “I’m feeling good out there,” Johnson said. “The more I play, the better I feel out there, and the better I play. I just want to help the team any way I can.”

Johnson is expected to play his fifth consecutive game Friday, when the Sound Tigers visit the Binghamton Senators. In the 11-forward lineup, he and Ryan Kinasewich usually take a shift with a variable forward. “The last couple of games, both Ryan and Gregg have been playing a little bit more,” Bridgeport coach Jack Capuano said. “They’re guys who, when they play, at the end of the game the last few games, they’ve been plus players, and they’ve had a point or two.”

When penalties don’t disrupt the flow of a game, Capuano prefers to roll four lines. Having Johnson, 25, and Kinasewich, 24, gives him two players with skill and smarts to put out as fourth-liners. They can also fill in higher up the depth chart if needed, as Johnson showed last year with the Sound Tigers.

“One thing about Gregg, that he does probably a little better than some guys, is he cuts back on the cycle,” Capuano said. “(Blake) Comeau does it. Tim Jackman does it. We need more of our forwards doing that.”

Johnson curled off the boards Saturday to score his goal. He went to the front of the net Sunday. He is plus-1 in each of the past three games.

“He understands the systems. He plays the percentages a little more on the defensive side,” said Capuano, who was the general manager of the ECHL’s Pee Dee Pride when Johnson played there in 2004-05. Johnson signed with the Sound Tigers last year, first on a tryout, then on an AHL contract. He signed an AHL contract for this season, staying close to his family’s home in Windsor. And both of his brothers’ careers have come through the area. Keith Johnson, who went to training camp with Bridgeport after finishing his career at the University of Maine, has nine goals in the past six games for the Grizzlies, playing on a line with Trevor Smith and Tyler Haskins. Gregg gets a text message every time Keith scores. Youngest brother Nick plays for Sacred Heart. Being nearby has been fun for Gregg Johnson. “I get to shoot home whenever I can,” Johnson said. “A lot of my family can come see a game. I get to keep in touch with a lot of people I might not otherwise.”