By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Marcus Johansson was not a fan of Brad Marchand.
It’s hard to blame him, too, as it was Marchand that delivered a vicious, cheap elbow to Johansson’s head late in a decided game against the Devils in Jan. 2018. The hit completely derailed Johansson’s year, and you could argue that he’s still trying to find his way back to being the player he was when he recorded a career-best 52 points for the Caps in 2016-17.
But now Johansson (acquired from the Devils in exchange for two draft picks on Monday) and Marchand are teammates.
Awkward? Not at all, according to the newest Bruin.
“That’s water under the bridge,” Johansson said when asked about smoothing things over with Marchand.
That peace offering actually came before Johansson even hit the ice with the team, or touched down in Boston for that matter, as Marchand reached out to Johansson with a phone call shortly after the completion of the trade.
It was in that call that Marchand apologized for the elbow that put the Swedish-born forward on the shelf for 35 regular-season games and two postseason contests. An apology the 28-year-old Johansson accepted before quickly turning the page to the opportunity he has to play competitive hockey down the stretch.
“I just said, ‘That stuff happens a lot.’ It’s just fun to be here and it’s fun to be his teammate,” Johansson said. “He’s one of the best players in the league, so it’s fun to be on this side of it now.
“For me, it’s something I’ve put behind me. I’m happy that I’m just playing hockey right now. I’ve just heard great things about Marchy, that he’s a great guy and a great teammate, and he’s a hell of a hockey player.”
But the hug-it-out between Marchand and Johansson will not see them unite on a line together just yet, as No. 90 will instead make his Boston debut slotted to the right of David Krejci and opposite Jake DeBrusk.
“Good skill, decent size, good playmaker, good power-play guy around the goal line, speed.. been a good player in the league,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said of Johansson’s boost to the Bruins. “The upgrades to our forward group, we talked about the need for some secondary scoring, we’ve seen more of it lately before the deadline.
“Hopefully with him and Charlie [Coyle], they add more after the deadline.”
It’s a solid bet on the part of Cassidy, as Coyle came to the Bruins with 24 of his 28 points with the Wild this season coming at even-strength, while Johansson arrives having recorded 18 of his 27 points with the Devils playing at evens.
Coyle and Johansson are interesting beyond the fact that they’re wearing some new sweaters at TD Garden tonight, too, as Cassidy alluded to potentially trying the pair out on Boston’s third line, which would move the left-shot Johansson to the left wing. For Cassidy, that idea comes with the hope of creating ‘pairs’ on each line, something he’s tinkered with in the past.
Jaroslav Halak will get the start in the Boston net. The 33-year-old Halak stopped 31-of-33 in a 3-2 shootout win over the Vegas Golden Knights last week, and enters tonight’s game with a 10-3-1 record and .927 in 14 home starts this year.
Kevan Miller, who missed Monday’s practice, will sit this one out with an upper-body injury. That will put John Moore back in action after four straight games as a healthy scratch.
On the other bench, the Sharks are expected to get Erik Karlsson back in action after a one-game absence due to a groin injury. A career-long Senator before last summer’s trade to the Sharks, Karlsson is more than familiar with the Bruins, and has three goals and 45 points in 51 games this season.
Here are complete lines and pairings for the Bruins…
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Danton Heinen
Jake DeBrusk – David Krejci – Marcus Johansson
Joakim Nordstrom – Charlie Coyle – David Backes
Sean Kuraly – Noel Acciari – Chris Wagner
Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy
Torey Krug – Brandon Carlo
Matt Grzelcyk – John Moore