Penguins have faith in struggling backup Johnson

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It’s been a season to forget for Brent Johnson.

Pittsburgh’s backup goaltender is in the midst of a shockingly bad statistical campaign — 3-7-0, 3.17 GAA, .882 save percentage — one that didn’t get any better after Sunday’s 6-2 loss to Buffalo. Johnson was yanked from the contest early in the second period after allowing three goals on 12 shots, the second time in five starts he’s failed to make it past the midway point (he also got an early hook in a 5-1 loss to Ottawa.)

Despite the struggles, the Penguins are standing behind the veteran keeper.

Well, head coach Dan Bylsma is anyway.

“I’m confident this guy can win hockey games,” Bylsma told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “He hasn’t played particularly well and hasn’t had a season like last year. He is going to be playing again. He’s going to have to win us some games, and play better.”

Johnson’s struggles this year been exacerbated by his outstanding numbers from last year, when he went 13-5-0 with a sparkling 2.17 GAA and .922 save percentage. That allowed Bylsma to rest No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on a number of occasions — something he hasn’t been able to do this season.

Sunday’s game against Buffalo was a prime example. Fleury played the day before in a 6-4 win over Philly and faced 31 shots, then got called in on his day off (which the Sabres took full advantage of, scoring three times on 12 shots.) Forcing Fleury into extended action has been a common theme in Pittsburgh this season — the Pens played 11 games in January and Flower was the goalie of record in 10 of them, a big reason why he’s on pace to set a career high in appearances.