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Johnson on leading Hawks in ice time: ‘My body feels great'


The Blackhawks are past the quarter mark of the 2022-23 season and they sit near the bottom of the standings. That shouldn't surprise anyone since they're in the beginning stages of a rebuild.

What is, perhaps, a little surprising? Chicago's ice time leader through 22 games is 17-year veteran Jack Johnson, who has logged 449:18 total minutes. His per game average of 20:25 is up substantially from 16:45 last season with Colorado and is his highest since the 2016-17 season when he averaged 21:49 with Columbus.

"I had a good idea coming in, they explained that I'd probably be playing a more significant role than I have in years past," Johnson told NBC Sports Chicago. "It's been fun. I love playing and my body feels great. I was actually telling someone earlier, it's almost a little bit easier cause you get into a rhythm, you're not sitting there long, you don't get cold sitting on the bench, you just keep going, so it's actually been easier on my body."

The Blackhawks leaned heavily on Johnson when Seth Jones was out of the lineup for 10 games with a right thumb injury. If not for the injury, Jones would obviously be the runaway ice-time leader for the Blackhawks.

But when Jones is in the lineup, Johnson has played most of his minutes with him on the top pairing.

"I think we were expecting to move him around a little bit and help the younger guys, but the way the lineup turned out, it worked out that he plays really well with Seth," Blackhawks head coach Luke Richardson said. "He’s a champion, he’s a veteran guy, he’s great in the room, he’s calm and he has fun out on the ice in practice, which is great for the young guys to see.

"He’s competitive but when it’s time to enjoy it, he enjoys it. He’s a great example for everybody on the team. We’re lucky to have him and he’s been a real good force in the dressing room for us."

Ask any player and they'll tell you they want to play a lot because it's much easier to get into the flow of the game. Johnson, who turns 36 in January, is no different, even though he's got a lot of hockey mileage on his body.

"100 percent," Johnson said. "That's been a lot of fun for me. It's been fun for me too knowing that I can still do it. My body feels great, so that's been an enjoyable part. But I also know you've got to play well to keep it going. Nothing's given in this league."

The challenging part has been the current state of the Blackhawks. They haven't won a game in three weeks, riding an eight-game winless skid. They also have the second-worst points percentage of any team as the calendar flips to December.

Johnson knew what he was getting himself into when he signed a one-year contract with a rebuilding team, but he probably didn't expect it to be this bad. I asked Johnson what his mentality is for the rest of the season and whether he's looking at this opportunity to showcase himself for a potential contender at the trade deadline, and he wasn't really focused on that.

"You know what, I'm not even too worried about the whole showcasing thing or anything like that," Johnson said. "I'm just having fun playing. I was eyes wide open coming here, and I also thought it was a better team than what everyone thought it was going to be.

"I was excited to come to an Original Six team, too. So all those things were positives for me, but right now I'm just enjoying playing and competing and getting to play a more significant role than I have in the past."

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