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Johnson Returns After Month Off

Kings Report

December 22, 1998|JIM HODGES

It has been a tough month for the Kings' Matt Johnson, who spent part of it skating with his brother Nathaniel's team of 11- and 12-year-olds near Toronto, part of it practicing with no reward in view, and another part of it apologizing.

He last played Nov. 19, when he lowered the boom on the New York Rangers' Jeff Beukeboom and received a 12-game suspension from the NHL, the league's longest penalty in this suspension-laden season.

That ends tonight, when Johnson is eligible to play against Pittsburgh.

Whether he will remains to be seen, because the Kings have shuffled lines and like what they saw in a 4-1 victory over Chicago on Sunday night.

"Any time you're forced to take a month off, it's hard," Johnson said.

*

Winger Donald Audette reported soreness from playing in his first game Sunday at Chicago.

Audette counted the Blackhawks among the teams he spurned to sign with the Kings, who sent a draft choice to Buffalo for his services.

"You ride the bike for three months, but it's never enough," he said of getting into game condition.

Tonight

at Pittsburgh

4:30, Fox Sports West

* Site--Civic Arena.

* Radio--KRLA (1110).

* Records--Kings 9-20-3, Penguins 13-9-7.

* Record vs. Penguins (1997-98)--0-1-1.

* Update--Pittsburgh goalie Tom Barrasso made his 16th consecutive start Monday but was sidelined after the first period because of a hip injury. His replacement, Peter Skudra, gave up four goals on the first nine shots he faced in a 7-1 loss to Toronto. Skudra hasn't started since Nov. 3. Jaromir Jagr leads the Penguins with 10 goals and 38 points.

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