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Brent Johnson makes Pittsburgh home - 10-23-12

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

As with every other member of the NHLPA, Brent Johnson is out of a job.

Unlike most most members of the players association, Johnson was without a job before the NHL's lockout formally began Sept. 15.

After a rough 2011-12 season which saw Johnston struggle with a 6-7-2 record and a save percentage of .883, the Penguins opted to not re-sign the veteran backup goaltender. Johnson did not sign with another team throughout the summer and will be without an NHL home once the lockout comes to an end. At 35, Johnson's prospects for a new NHL job could be slim.

Johnson has found a new permanent home here in Pittsburgh. He has opted to move his family from his wife's hometown of Washington, D.C., where he spent four seasons with the Capitals, to Western Pennsylvania. Over the past two weeks, he has been working out with his former Penguins teammates at Iceoplex in Southpointe.

Recently, he talked about his future, his new home and his time with the Penguins.

What's it like being a free agent and locked out?

"Right now everyone’s in the same boat kind of. Once things get going, when and if they do, I’ll see what happens. I’m probably like a lot of other guys in my position. Work out on the ice as much as I can and if something happens or something comes along, I’ll be ready to go. I’m doing the same thing I did during the (2004-05) lockout."

You were working out with some of the Capitals' players in the early days of the lockout. Why did you return here to work out with the Penguins?

“This is just geography for us. This is going to be where we’re going to be. We still have our place there. Not ruling anything out. This is where I want to be. They (the Capitals players) lost a lot of guys lost a lot of guys (going to Europe) right from the start (of the lockout). Guys have been fresh here and running good practices. It’s been really nice for me to see some real work as opposed to seeing three on three and ‘shinny.’"

What appeals to this area for you to move here full time?

"Geography-wise, it makes sense for my family. We’re right half way between my family in Michigan and her family in (Washington) D.C. So, that’s nice. Another thing is the difference in communities. A lot of hustle-bustle there. A lot of stuff going on. Here, especially, the place we live, it’s relaxed. I’m not taking anything away from D.C. It’s a great, great city. There’s a lot more things going on there. For hockey in general, it’s nice (here). A lot of (hockey players) stay here. You find a lot of guys, after their careers, move here."

So there's a community of ex-NHLers you can be a part of?

"Exactly. Whether I get a contract or not or if the season (starts), I can be here and find hockey anywhere and stay in shape."

Did you have any prospects for an NHL contract this summer? 

"Pretty quiet summer. There were a few things mentioned at the start of free agency. Then when we got closer to (the lockout), no one was doing anything besides people signing extensions. But I’m fine. I want to play if someone gives me a contract. But I’m happy with my family. I think I read from (Matt Cooke), it gives us an opportunity – I have a new daughter – to spend time with her."

If a training camp invitation comes along, is that something you would consider?

"I’d rather something comes up where it’s more specific as opposed to just going into a tryout basis. But if I want to keep playing, I obviously got to do everything I have to do to keep playing."

What do you make of your three seasons with the Penguins?

"Great times, great moments. I met a lot of great people. Obviously, I love everybody I played with, especially my goaltending partner. Three great years with him. We’re still close and we’re going to remain close. First two years, I had great years. Fun, a lot of fun. Last year, I struggled with injury. I didn’t want it to end like that but it’s hockey, that’s they way it goes. I’m thankful for all my coaches and obviously (general manager) Ray (Shero). Everyone’s been a class act my whole time here. I was very, very pleased with my time here."

For better or worse, you'll be most remembered in Pittsburgh for the game against the Islanders in 2011 when you injured goaltender Rick DiPietro in a fight. Is that good or bad?

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"I’m a backup goalie. People aren’t going to remember me in games that were close of if we needed a win. Obviously (Marc-Andre Fleury is) in those games. It was a fun thing to do. Fortunately I wasn’t on the bottom of that. It could have gone the other way. I could have been remembered that way so it’s better this way."

(Photos: First-Justin K. Aller/Getty Images; Second-Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

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