Buffalo Sabres blueliner’s Western Conference road trip will be memorable

Dec 2, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Erik Johnson (6) looks on against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 2, 2023; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Erik Johnson (6) looks on against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period at PNC Arena. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /
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Buffalo Sabres defenseman Erik Johnson appears ready for his big return to Colorado, where he once helped the Avalanche win the Stanley Cup.

While Erik Johnson has not performed incredibly well for the Buffalo Sabres across the one-third mark of the 2023-24 season, he played a pivotal role with the Colorado Avalanche for years. Although he spent his first two-and-a-half seasons in St. Louis, Johnson called Denver, Colorado his home between 2011 and 2023, where he won the Stanley Cup in 2021-22.

Now, Johnson appears ready to make his return to Ball Arena, and he had the following to say after the Blue and Gold’s final practice before they embark on a road trip out west.

"“We built this thing from the bottom all the way to the top, so it’ll be extra special to be there with all my old teammates and the fans, so it’s also me wanting to give thanks to the fan base and that organization for all they did for me for almost 15 years.”"

Source: Erik Johnson’s idea of switching sides with Clifton has worked by Paul Hamilton, Audacy.com

Buffalo Sabres Western Conference road trip a homecoming affair for Erik Johnson

One of Johnson’s best outings came during that 2021-22 season, as he scored 25 points, eight goals, and 17 assists, along with a plus-22. His 136 blocks were the third-highest of his career, and his 165 hits remain a career-high.

This season, Johnson is averaging just 14:19 of total ice time in 28 games played. And while he’s not the player he was during his time in Denver, Johnson still has 39 blocks and 32 hits on the year, averaging to 113 and between 92 and 93, indicating he can still regularly invade shooting lanes and keep up his physical play.

Johnson has also been part of the Buffalo Sabres improved penalty kill, which sits 12th in the league. He’s been on the ice for both of the Blue and Gold’s shorthanded goals, and they are averaging an 86.0 save percentage when he is on the ice at 4-on-5.

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Overall, Johnson appears poised to return to the place he spent the prime of his career. And while it will be a different experience for him, helping another team get back to the playoffs in the Buffalo Sabres stems from what he learned during the Avalanche’s own building phase not too long ago.

(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)