ANALYSIS: Friendly enemies abound in comebacks for Johnson, Raddysh and Katchouk

Interim head coach Derek King and the Blackhawks’ starting lineup on Friday was not about strategy, but about respect — “the right thing to do,” he later explained.

Tyler Johnson, Taylor Raddych and Boris Katchouk all lined up at center ice in each other’s first game in Tampa since being traded, Johnson this summer and Raddysh and Katchouk just two weeks ago. Brandon Hagel, who went the other way in the recent trade, also got the starting nod for his new team, lining up against Raddysh at center ice.

Johnson took no ceremony in the toss, winning it on his only faceoff of the night.

“It was really cool,” Johnson said of the moment. “It was actually surprising, we didn’t know anything about it before.”

Chicago scored a pair of goals early in the game and fought back for a 2-2 score in the first intermission, but ultimately the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions emerged victorious in the evening, 5-2 with a late void – net count.

“This team can turn it on offensively and they can stop it with the best of them,” King said. “Ultimately, that’s the kind of team we want to be… We competed, we did it. We tried. We just can’t compete with that kind of team. We’re not there. We don’t have the players for that. But I’ll give credit to our guys, the back-to-back routes (games), we stayed with, we competed.”

Despite the loss, the night was the most meaningful for Johnson, who returned to his NHL home for nine seasons and where he won back-to-back Cups before being acquired, but went to the Blackhawks in late July. During the game’s first televised break, the centerman was greeted with a tribute video and a standing ovation from the Tampa crowd, who chanted “Ty-ler John-son” in appreciation. Johnson jumped off the Blackhawks bench, which was also enjoying their teammate’s return, and circled center ice to greet his longtime fans.

“Obviously Tampa will always have a special place in my heart,” he said. “So to see all the memories and kind of be back here and have the fans supporting me like that, that’s pretty cool.”

“A nice little video for Johnny,” King added. “He’s done a lot for this organization and it’s good to see them take notice.”

Tweet from @TBLightning: Nesaaaaaaaaaaaa are Tyler Johnson trophies filled, and it”s because he is the best player in the team. everything, @tjohnny09. 💙 pic.twitter.com/rOqCa1lIRP

Raddysh and Katchouk, who were both in their first NHL seasons with the Lightning before the deadline, were also hailed later in the game. The duo have spent the past three seasons with AHL affiliate Tampa Bay in Syracuse after being selected 14 times by the Lightning in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft.

“It’s a bit of a whirlwind, but it’s part of the business,” Katchouk said during the first intermission on NBC Sports Chicago. “I just go out there with a smile on my face and try to do my best.”

Tweet from @TBLightning: It’s been a pleasure watching you both grow. Good luck @RussianRocket13 and @Raddy1998! pic.twitter.com/5SSpGzLmND

On the other side, Hagel was facing his friends for the first time and acknowledged the equally odd feeling ahead of the match.

“Usually when you’re traded you don’t play them for a while. It’s only been two weeks and they’re already back here,” he said. “Obviously there are always a ton of my best friends on this hockey team. It’s definitely going to be different, but like everyone says, there are no friends when it comes to hockey. We will continue like this.

Hagel skated the length of the ice to win a late battle against a loose puck in the Blackhawks game and scored an empty-netter in the dying seconds to seal the victory for Tampa.

“I was ready to run out on the ice and tackle it myself. I could see it coming,” King joked after the game. “Good for him, I’m happy for him. We miss a guy like that, but glad for him that he’s on a team like this and maybe has a shot at winning the Stanley Cup.

LINE CHANGE

Aside from the change of guard at net in the second half of the straight streak, King made three roster changes Friday night in Tampa: bringing in Johnson and Philip Kurachev in front and Alex Vlasic at the back, replacing MacKenzie EntwistleHenrik Borgstom and Erik Gustafssonrespectively.

Johnson, who returned from concussion protocol on Monday night, is undressed in Florida as King brings him back into the lineup.

“This whole season has been a start over, start over kind of thing for me,” he said, recovering from neck surgery that kept him out for most of the year in March before leaving. enter concussion protocol just six games later. “Hopefully I can try to pick up some pace and get into the game a bit and get back to everything. You can practice so much but you really don’t get it unless you have some game touches .I just need to try to get this.

Kurashev, Entwistle and Borgstrom are expected to continue rotating in and out of the squad over the final month of the season. Vlasic played in his third NHL game, returning to the lineup for the first time since March 20.

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