The other side of that conversation?
"You're in shock, really," Johnson said Monday as the Bridgeport Sound Tigers broke up for the season.
"It's finally going to happen for you. You're overwhelmed. You're overflowing at the same time."
While the rest of the Sound Tigers went to Albany on April 11 for a late-season road game, Johnson, less than four weeks away from his 33rd birthday, went to New Jersey to join the New York Islanders.
"He's a guy who's worked hard all his life," said rookie defenseman Scott Mayfield, Johnson's Bridgeport roommate, who'd made his own NHL debut a week earlier. "He started at the bottom and got to the top at 32 years old, got two games."
Johnson played at Alaska Anchorage, played four years in the ECHL, then finally cracked the AHL at age 29, playing with Manchester for three seasons. His assistant coach there for the first two years was Pellerin.
The Sound Tigers signed Johnson last summer. He received an NHL contract on March 3. And then he got the call to the Prudential Center, playing right wing on a line with Brett Gallant and Mike Halmo, two teammates most of the year in Bridgeport.
"I go out for warmup, and there's Jaromir Jagr, Patrik Elias, Martin Brodeur: We're going to do this for real," Johnson said. "Exhibition games were exciting, but we're going to get to do this in real games that matter, something I've dedicated my whole life to, and at 32, I felt very blessed, and fortunate."
Two days later in Buffalo, Johnson, 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, fought John Scott, the Sabres' 6-8, 259-pound heavyweight. A big left hand floored the big guy.
"It was great for him, for all of us to get that opportunity (in the NHL)," Mayfield said. "I was really happy for him, proud. He had a great weekend, and that fight just capped it off."
Johnson's debut came three days after that of Gallant, who, though eight years younger, similarly fought his way out of obscurity to get his shot.
The two tough guys became good friends with lots of mutual respect. After Gallant's debut, which Johnson attended, Johnson said it took a lot of "blood, sweat and tears" for Gallant to get there.
He echoed those words for himself, thought about the work he'd put in to improve all aspects of his game and merit the chance.
"You think about all the people who helped you out," Johnson said, "who hyped you up even when you didn't believe the hype."
firstname.lastname@example.org; http://twitter.com/fornabaioctp; http://blog.connpost.com/fornabaio