There was always a thought to giving Chad Johnson a start in the first week of the season. But it became a little clearer that the Buffalo Sabres needed to get their backup goaltender in action sooner rather than later after Saturday's debacle in Brooklyn.
Robin Lehner was pulled in the second period against the New York Islanders after giving up four goals, including two shorthanded, in a 6-3 loss. Johnson keeps the net Monday afternoon as Sabres host the New Jersey Devils at 3 p.m. in KeyBank Center.
"We looked at the schedule and wanted to get him a game early, right away," Sabres coach Phil Housley said Monday afternoon in First Niagara Center. "The plan was not to have Robin pulled so early in the second period. But we felt Chad had a good outing and he's going to get the start today for us."
Johnson gave up one goal on 16 shots in his first regular season action this season. The 31-year-old returns to Buffalo after playing for the Calgary Flames last season. Johnson played 45 games for the Sabres in the 2015-16 season.
Housley said he is staying with the same lineup which puts Jordan Nolan and Josh Gorges as the healthy scratches.
"I felt that we have to give these guys a chance to respond today," Housley said.
"I just think our battle level has to be better. A lot of it comes down to the one-on-one battles. I thought we weren't heavy on our sticks. We weren't winning the puck battles. So we talked about it and addressed that. I think our guys are going to be ready to go today."
The Devils arrive in Buffalo coming off their season-opening 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche. The team announced that Kyle Palmieri and former Sabre Drew Stafford will not be in the lineup. Both are listed with lower body injuries.
New Jersey comes into the game with plenty of young talent, including defenseman Will Butcher annd forward Jesper Bratt. It's a new era for the Devils and Housley said his team has to be ready to counter their speed.
"They've sort of changed in direction where the old New Jersey Devils used to clog it up and be tough to play against and it was a pretty boring game," Housley said. "But if you watched their last game, they're pretty dynamic. They've got a lot more speed and skill up front so we've got to be aware of that."