Stephen Johns is a big guy from a tiny town who's worked his way from local teams to Notre Dame to stints in the AHL with the Rockford Ice Hogs and the Texas Stars. And now the former Chicago Blackhawks second-rounder is with the Dallas Stars, ready to play a second game against the team that drafted him and follow his new squad into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
No one is more thrilled about this turn of events than Johns' friends and family back home, who are an important part of his personal support system, he tells Heika:
Hailing from Wampum (pop. 717) has helped, Johns said. When he made his NHL debut March 11, he received tons of congratulations from friends and family back in Pennsylvania. When he scored his first NHL goal March 17, he said, his phone wouldn't stop vibrating.
"From school teachers, to my golf coaches, to anyone you can imagine, they texted me to say congratulations. I heard Main Street Wampum was buzzing," he said. "It's important to everyone back home. That's incredible, to come from a small community like that and do something special, it's a great feeling."
For all his physical gifts, the 6-4, 225-pound defender says that every step forward has been the result of hard work.
It's also how he has overcome hardship.... Johns was expected to get called up by the Blackhawks in the playoffs last season, but he suffered an ankle injury in the second round of the AHL playoffs. Instead of being a part of a run toward a Stanley Cup, he ended up in Dallas. When the Stars made a trade for Patrick Sharp, Nill insisted Johns be included.
"He dominated us in that playoff series," Nill said. "He definitely got our attention."
There's more at Heika's blog. Go there. [SportsDayDFW]
Mike also posted a small reminder of how hard Johns can shoot.
Stephen Johns broke the glass at practice today. pic.twitter.com/bBvj4MctIF— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) March 14, 2016
Stephen Johns is everywhere today: Ed Sarno spoke with Notre Dame head coach Jeff Jackson about his recent protégé and Dallas' newest man of the moment. [The Hockey Writers]
Also at THW: Jordan Dix examines four teams, including the Stars, who pose the biggest threats to the biggest names in the Western Conference. [THW]
Keep an eye on DBD for Stars-Blackhawks gameday coverage. But first, Mark Stepneski previews tonight's contest, in which Our Gang can finally lock down that playoff spot as well as extend their Central Division lead. [Stars Inside Edge]
Mark tweeted out some line updates from yesterday's practice, too.
Maintenance today for Alex Goligoski and Kris Russell. "Hopefully, both will be good to go," Lindy Ruff said.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) March 21, 2016
Jordie Benn ready to go. Mattias Janmark looks good, but he might need a couple more practices, Ruff said.— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) March 21, 2016
Don't forget, the Stars are hosting an official North Texas watch party tonight at the Hard Rock Café in Victory Park.
The ones to watch tonight:
- Winnipeg Jets vs. Vancouver Canucks, 7 p.m. Central time
- Minnesota Wild vs. Kings, 7:30 p.m. Central time
- St. Louis Blues at San Jose Sharks, 9:30 p.m. Central time
Can a healthy Brian Elliott finally get the Blues to the second round? Jared Clinton's postseason speculation has begun.
Mary Clarke says the Pittsburgh Penguins' recent uptick in performance may have come just in time for the playoffs.
And after the worst start of his career, Sidney Crosby is warming up just in time to make it into Hart Trophy contention, says Allan Muir.
Muir also takes a look at this week's most important match-ups and declares tonight's Stars-Blackhawks game "pregnant with playoff implications" (oooh). [SI]
The Philadelphia Flyers are making their move to grab a playoff spot, and last night's 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders (featuring a first NHL goal for Brandon Manning) will help them get there. [NHL on NBC]
Mike Fisher played his 1,000th NHL game last night, and the Nashville Predators center got well-wishes from plenty of celebrities – but the biggest may have been Bono. [Puck Daddy]
Finally: Jamie Benn and an elephantine hit on Drew Doughty stand alongside some tasty goals and amazing saves in the NHL's latest Super Slo-mo highlight reel. Enjoy