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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 3:08 PM

By Arpon Basu -  Managing Editor LNH.com /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Nabokov waiting for another chance

MONTREAL -- Despite having Evgeni Nabokov healthy and available, New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano has opted to give Al Montoya his eighth start in goal in the last nine games for tonight's game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Nabokov suffered a groin injury the last time the Islanders faced the Canadiens, a 4-3 win at home Nov. 17, but was taken off injured reserve Monday.

In Nabokov's absence, and with Rick DiPietro still sidelined with a groin injury of his own, Montoya has played extremely well, with a 3-2-2 record, .915 save percentage and 2.42 goals-against average in his last eight games. That includes 13 saves in a shutout third period to preserve a 5-4 win against Dallas on Dec. 3 for DiPietro after he was injured.

Meanwhile, Nabokov waits.

"I really like the way the last couple of days of practice have gone for him, but we have a lot of games coming up," Capuano said. "So we'll get him some additional work and he'll be ready shortly for us."

Nabokov did not hide his disappointment with the decision after Tuesday's morning skate, but admitted he needs to earn the starting job back from Montoya.

"The big thing is to play well," he said. "In a competitive league you have to play well in order to have a chance. It doesn't matter what team you're on, if you're fighting for first spot in the conference or fighting for a playoff spot, whoever gives you the best chance to win has to play."

It has been a long, strange trip for Nabokov ever since he hit free agency as one of the League's top goalies in the summer of 2010, coming off a season where he went 44-16-10 with a .922 save percentage and 2.43 goals-against average in 71 games for the San Jose Sharks.

But Nabokov found no suitors in a flooded goalie market who were willing to meet his asking price, and instead headed to the KHL. His stay there lasted just 22 games, and then hoped to land in Detroit when he signed with the Red Wings. But the Islanders grabbed him on a waiver claim, and after sitting out last season after the waiver claim, he's been with the Isles since training camp.

"I hate free agency," Nabokov said with a laugh. "Things change. That was the first time I became a free agent. Oops."

His time in Long Island has been tumultuous, to say the least, but he says he wants to make it work with the Islanders, except he is not willing to entertain the idea of being a backup.

"I don't think I will ever agree with that term," he said. "I do like to play, but you have to give your team a chance to win and you have to play well in order to demand something or expect something. That's the bottom line."

Nabokov said he feels he was given ample opportunity to prove himself earlier this season only to be de-railed by this groin injury. He'll now have to wait a bit longer to get another opportunity to start over.

For Montreal, defenseman Chris Campoli will re-enter the lineup to play for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury on opening night in Toronto on Oct. 6. He will be on Montreal's third defense pairing, with newcomer Tomas Kaberle, who will make his Bell Centre debut after being acquired from Carolina in a trade for Jaroslav Spacek last Friday.

Campoli also will play on the second power-play unit, alongside Raphael Diaz, while Kaberle and P.K. Subban man the points on the first unit.

To make room for Campoli, hard-hitting rookie Alexei Emelin will sit out while defenseman Yannick Weber will play as a forward to take the spot of injured captain Brian Gionta.

Carey Price gets the start in goal for a sixth straight game.

Here are the possible lineups for the game, though the Islanders held only an optional skate Tuesday morning, so these line combinations are from their last game.

ISLANDERS
Matt Moulson - John Tavares - PA Parenteau
Michael Grabner - Frans Nielsen - Kyle Okposo
David Ullstrom - Josh Bailey - Brian Rolston
Matt Martin - Marty Reasoner - Tim Wallace

Mark Streit - Travis Hamonic
Steve Staios - Milan Jurcina
Mike Mottau - Dylan Reese

CANADIENS
Michael Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Andrei Kostitsyn
Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Travis Moen - Lars Eller - Louis Leblanc
Mathieu Darche - Petteri Nokelainen - Yannick Weber
 
Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 2:40 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Foster weary from travel but ready for fresh start

SUNRISE, Fla. — Kurtis Foster could have been excused if he wanted, or needed, to sit out New Jersey’s game at Florida on Tuesday night.

But after flying Monday night and Tuesday morning to join his new team just in time to head to the BankAtlantic Center for an optional skate, the veteran defenseman was feeling more excited than exhausted.

“Coming to a new team I think I’ll get a little bit of a burst of energy, a little bit of adrenaline going knowing that it’s my first time with the team,” said Foster, whom the Devils acquired in a four-player trade. “Just the excitement of meeting new guys and being with a team that’s in a lot better position than we were in Anaheim and you’re winning games and close to the playoffs, it definitely makes it a lot easier to deal with a little bit of tiredness. I’ll go back and get a good rest this afternoon and be ready to go tonight.”

Foster was acquired by New Jersey along with minor-league goalie Timo Pielmeier in exchange for defenseman Mark Fraser, center Rod Pelley and a seventh-round choice in the 2012 Entry Draft.

It was the second time in less than six months that Foster was traded. Anaheim had acquired him July 1 in exchange for fellow defenseman Andy Sutton.

New Jersey will be the sixth NHL team for the 30-year-old Foster, following Atlanta, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Edmonton and Anaheim. He’s expected to be paired Tuesday night with Bryce Salvador and also should get time on the Devils’ power play, where he will be reunited with former Thrashers teammate Ilya Kovalchuk.

“Knowing what Jersey is all about, I want to try to play solid defense, but my game is shooting the puck and create as much offensively,” Foster said. “I know that [Kovalchuk] likes to play the off-side on the power play and I like to play the right side. Hopefully, it’s a match that works out and (I’ll) try to get him the puck as much as I can in a position where he can shoot and make sure as many of my shots through, too. If I can generate a little bit of offense, help out the PP and play a solid all-around game, that’s kind of what I’m hoping for.”

Foster says he’s 100 percent recovered from a leg problem that sidelined him during training camp and the exhibition season.

He explained that a wire that he had inserted after fracturing his left leg while with Minnesota somehow moved and went into his quad. Foster said the wire was clipped at the bone and the leg shouldn’t be an issue moving forward.

Foster broke his leg in March of 2008 and missed most of the following season, but he played in 71 games for Tampa Bay in 2009-10 and 74 games for Edmonton last season.

Foster was informed of the trade after being pulled off the ice 10 minutes into Anaheim’s practice Monday afternoon.

It wasn’t until he drove home after showering that Ducks general manager Bob Murray informed him where he was being sent.

“I really didn’t know what to think,” Foster said. “It’s kind of a weird feeling when he tells you you’re being moved but he doesn’t tell you where. He did say at that point that it was a good situation for me and it was the best thing for my career going forward. When you have a GM telling you that, it’s a good thing and when he told me it was the Devils I was pretty excited.”

Foster took a 5:30 p.m. flight from Anaheim to Dallas and then headed to South Florida on a 5:45 a.m. flight Tuesday morning.

During the optional skate, he got some one-on-one instruction from Devils assistant coach Adam Oates, who also coached Foster in Tampa Bay.

“You never want to be traded, but when you do, you know that the team you’re going to likes you and wants you, so it’s always a good feeling,” Foster said. “Even though I’ve moved on to my fourth team 
in a couple of years, it is exciting, it is nice to know that I’m still wanted out there and that I think I can really help this team.
         
“[I’m] very, very happy. I think my wife will have a hard time leaving California. She enjoyed the beach life there, but for my family, my wife and my son, it’s a move that’s going to benefit the most for my future going ahead.”
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 2:27 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Jets move on from loss, start long home stretch

WINNIPEG -- The Winnipeg Jets did not waste any time moving on from a 7-1 loss on Saturday night to the Detroit Red Wings.

"For us, we've moved past that game," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "We weren't happy with it. I don't think anybody enjoyed playing it, watching it, anything."

After suffering their worst loss of the season, the Jets (13-12-4) will be back on MTS Centre ice tonight against the Minnesota Wild, where they have won seven of their last eight home contests, including four wins before their boisterous home crowd. The Jets will play six consecutive games at home and eight of their next nine contests at home this month.

The Jets' lineup also continues to change because of injury. The Jets activated defenseman Ron Hainsey and expect to dress the veteran tonight. Hainsey has played only one game since Oct. 17. The Jets also claimed veteran forward Antti Miettinen off waivers on Tuesday morning, but he is in Finland and not immediately expected to arrive in Winnipeg.

Alexander Burmistrov is not expected to dress because of an undisclosed injury, and Nik Antropov is also expected to be a scratch because of injury after having re-entered the Winnipeg lineup in Detroit. Right wing Eric Fehr remains on injured reserve, as do defensemen Tobias Enstrom and Derek Meech.

"We'll make a game-time decision," Noel said when asked about his lineup, adding that he did not think that he would use any of his defensemen in a forward role for the night.

Here are tonight's projected lines and pairings for Winnipeg:

JETS
Evander Kane - Bryan Little - Blake Wheeler
Andrew Ladd - Tim Stapleton - Kyle Wellwood
Tanner Glass - Jim Slater - Chris Thorburn
Jason Jaffray - Carl Klingberg

Mark Stuart - Zach Bogosian
Johnny Oduya - Dustin Byfuglien
Randy Jones - Ron Hainsey
Mark Flood

Ondrej Pavelec
Chris Mason
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 2:14 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Skinner out for shorthanded Hurricanes

TORONTO -- The struggling Carolina Hurricanes will also be shorthanded Tuesday night when they face the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Hurricanes are 2-7-1 in their past 10 games and coach Kirk Muller, who is already without Joni Pitkanen and Jay Harrison will also be without the services of 2011 Calder Trophy winner, Jeff Skinner, who remained in North Carolina for a medical evaluation.
 
It is something of a homecoming for Kirk Muller, who hails from Kingston Ontario, half-way between Toronto and Montreal (where he won the Stanley Cup in 1993). The Maple Leafs and Canadiens are two of the six teams he played for in his 22-year NHL career.

“[I’m an] Ontario boy, so it’s always nice to come to Toronto,” Muller said. “It’s always a great atmosphere, a lot of friends and family but I’m excited because we had a couple of days to work on some stuff and our guys recovered and are ready for a big game tonight.”

Carolina is only 26th in the NHL on the power play at 13.1 percent for the season, but the Hurricanes have converted 3 of 9 chances in the past two games.

“[We’ve made] a couple of personnel moves [on the power play], it’s more of calming things down,” Muller said. “When you are not winning you force things, I try to tell the guys, there is a lot of skill here, believe in the plays, work them and do it consistently and over time you will get some production.”

A successful power play from an opposing team might not be good news for the Leafs. Seven of the past nine goals allowed by Toronto in the past three games have come with the opponent on the man advantage.

“We’ve practiced our PK,” Toronto coach Ron Wilson said. “It’s been poor the last two games. The previous 10 or 15 it was pretty good, so we have a bit of an anomaly, none the less, we’ve spent the last two days putting probably an hour of our two hours of practice to penalty killing.”

Phil Kessel enters this game in a three-way tie in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy. He has 18 goals and is second in the League with 36 points.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 2:08 PM

By Patrick Williams -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Wild aim for eighth straight road win

WINNIPEG -- The Minnesota Wild will attempt to set a new franchise mark for consecutive road wins with eight when they head north to the unfriendly confines of the MTS Centre.

Minnesota's 20 wins and 43 points lead the NHL, and the club is off to its best start in franchise history. The Wild also own a seven-game winning streak after knocking off the Phoenix Coyotes on the road Saturday night, 4-1. Kyle Brodziak chipped in two power-play goals against the Coyotes and now leads all Minnesota scorers with 10 goals.

Tonight's meeting is the first look at what will be a new conference rivalry come next season. Minnesota and Winnipeg are each other's closest geographic rivals.

The Wild will regain the services of left wing Guillaume Latendresse, whom they activated from injured reserve this morning after a 15-game absence. Latendresse last played on Nov. 10 at San Jose. However, center Matt Cullen will not play after being sidelined by illness.

Defensemen Marek Zidlicky (concussion) and Justin Falk (upper body) remain out for Minnesota, as does right wing Devin Setoguchi (lower body) Right wing Cal Clutterbuck, who missed the last two games with a lower-body injury, will draw back into the Minnesota line-up.

WILD
Guillaume Latendresse - Mikko Koivu - Dany Heatley
Casey Wellman - Kyle Brodziak - Pierre-Marc Bouchard
Nick Johnson - Darroll Powe - Cal Clutterbuck
Colton Gillies - Cody Almond - Brad Staubitz

Nick Schultz - Mike Lundin
Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon
Clayton Stoner - Greg Zanon

Niklas Backstrom
Matt Hackett

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 1:56 PM

By Matt Kalman -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

'Somber' Kings trying to move forward vs. Bruins

BOSTON -- There's an emotional hurdle John Stevens knows he and his players have to overcome tonight when the Los Angeles Kings take the ice against the Boston Bruins at the TD Garden.

Stevens, an assistant coach under Terry Murray, was named interim coach after Murray was fired Monday.

"It was a pretty somber mood here today," Stevens said after running the morning skate. "I think Terry has an enormous amount of respect from every guy in that locker room and certainly everybody affiliated with the team. So it's not surprising that there's a very somber mood over the team. That's why we felt it was very important to skate as a group today and just kind of work through it. But it's a process you have to go through. There's no quick fix for it, there's no lightning in a bottle. We talk about the process all the time, but it's very important that we work through the process because of what just transpired."

Stevens, who had been running the Kings' defense during games, will slide down the bench and run the forwards, with assistant coach Jamie Kompon running the defense. While the coaching roles change, the goal for everyone with the 13-12-4 Kings continues to be to live up to the expectations that had many picking the Kings to be near the top of the Western Conference.

"It was a difficult day yesterday for everybody," said Stevens. "I mean, (we were) taken by surprise and then a quick turnaround to try to get ready for Boston here. So I'm not going to lie to you, it's not an easy thing to go through. Certainly not for us. I think we all have to take some responsibility here for the situation we're in, and that goes for Jamie and I, as well.

"There’s big expectations on this team, and the ironic thing is that it's because of the great job that Terry did here. That's why we're considered a team that can do damage in the West, is because of the respect that he's brought here during his time here. So what better challenge than the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Boston Bruins?"

Here's the lineup Stevens and the Kings likely will go with, and here's what the Bruins likely will counter with.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 1:34 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Babcock's influence evident in Bylsma's coaching

PITTSBURGH -- Dan Bylsma, last season's winner of the Jack Adams Award -- presented annually to the NHL's coach of the year -- is more than a distant admirer of Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.
 
The Pittsburgh Penguins coach, a former NHL forward, played for Babcock when the Anaheim Ducks lost to the New Jersey Devils in the 2003 Stanley Cup Final.
 
Bylsma was raised in Grand Rapids, Mich., and he has watched the Red Wings since he was a youngster. Not surprisingly, Bylsma tries to incorporate a great deal of what the Red Wings do well -- see Puck Management 101 -- into the Penguins' system.
 
Call it the Red Wings influence.
 
"They're a team, whether because I grew up in Michigan and being a Red Wings fan, or because they're an elite team, a better team -- they certainly have been playing that way -- we've watched a lot," Bylsma said. "I try to learn something from everybody and I learned a lot from Mike Babcock as a coach."
 
Bylsma added, "(I'm) still watching their team, watching what they do to see if there's not something there. You can hear Mike's voice through a lot of that."
 
And see a lot of that in the Penguins, who beat the Red Wings in a memorable seven-game Stanley Cup Final in 2009, only a few months after Bylsma was hired at midseason to replace Michel Therrien.
 
The Penguins accumulated 106 points last season despite being without stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal for about a half a season each due to injuries. This season, Crosby has played in only eight games, yet the Penguins went into their game against Detroit on Tuesday night with a 17-9-4 record and 38 points.
 
Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall credits that to Bylsma's organizational and improvisational skills and his ability to get the maximum effort and production from all players in the lineup.
 
As Kronwall said, the Penguins don't "live or die with one guy. It's pretty remarkable."
 
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 1:17 PM

By Alan Robinson -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

No changes for surging Red Wings

PITTSBURGH — The Detroit Red Wings don’t plan any lineup changes for their game Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center, and who can blame them for not messing with success?
 
The Red Wings go into their only meeting of the season against Pittsburgh with nine victories in 11 games and 13 in 17. They have outscored their opponents 65-33 in the past 17 contests. Detroit was 5-5-1 going into its 5-0 win against Anaheim on Nov. 5, but now is 18-9-1.
 
The Red Wings – 6-7 away from Joe Louis Arena – would appear to be catching the Penguins at an opportune time. Pittsburgh will be missing star Sidney Crosby (concussion-related symptoms) for a third consecutive game, and centers Jordan Staal (lower body injury) and Evgeni Malkin (undisclosed problem) will be game-time decisions.
 
The Penguins already were without defensemen Kris Letang, Zbynek Michalek  and Robert Bortuzzo (concussions) and Ben Lovejoy (wrist), plus forward Richard Park (broken foot).
 
Only 10 days ago, the Penguins were putting a close-to-healthy lineup on the ice for the first time this season – even if it was missing Letang, one of the NHL’s premier offensive defensemen. Now, they are as depleted as they have been since coach Dan Bylsma was hired nearly three years ago.
 
“Obviously, we’d like Sid to be playing,” Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “As a League, you want him to be playing. When you’re playing another team, you want their best goalie, you want their best players. You want to find out if you’re any good or not.  But, in saying that, you also want points.”
 
Pittsburgh has won its last two at home against the Red Wings and swept a two-game season series against them in 2010-11. This is the first season since 2007-08 the teams won’t play each other at least twice; they met in the Stanley Cup Final in 2008 and 2009, with each franchise winning once.
 
“it’s one of those teams that you love to play against,” Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “It’s a great matchup. The games are high intensity.”
 
Here is the Red Wings’ likely lineup:
 
Johan FranzenPavel DatsyukTodd Bertuzzi
Valtteri FilppulaHenrik ZetterbergJiri Hudler
Darren HelmDanny ClearyChris Conner
Drew MillerJustin AbdelkaderTomas Holmstrom
 
Nicklas LidstromIan White
Niklas KronwallJonathan Ericsson
Brad StuartJakub Kindl
 
Jimmy Howard (17-6-1) will oppose Marc-Andre Fleury (15-6-2) in net. Former Penguins goalie Ty Conklin will be the backup.
 
Howard is 1-0-1 with a 2.28 goals-against average in three career starts against Pittsburgh. Fleury is 4-4 with a 2.72 goals-against average in regular-season matchups against the Red Wings.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 1:13 PM

By Neil Acharya -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Maple Leafs, Hurricanes

TORONTO -- Here is what the lineups could look like when the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes take the ice tonight in Toronto.

MAPLE LEAFS

Joffrey Lupul - Tyler Bozak - Phil Kessel
Clarke MacArthur - Tim Connolly - Colby Armstrong
Matt Frattin - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Joey Crabb- David Steckel - Philippe Dupuis
 
Carl Gunnarsson - Dion Phaneuf
Jake Gardiner - Luke Schenn
John-Michael Liles - Cody Franson
 
James Reimer will start in goal, with Jonas Gustavsson the backup.
 
Colton Orr, Jay Rosehill and Keith Aulie will be healthy scratches.

HURRICANES

Jiri Tlusty - Eric Staal - Patrick Dwyer
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Jussi Jokinen - Tuomo Ruutu
Drayson Bowman - Brandon Sutter - Chad Larose
Andreas Nodl - Tim Brent - Anthony Stewart

Tim Gleason - Jamie McBain
Jaroslav Spacek - Justin Faulk
Bryan Allan - Derek Joslin

Cam Ward will start in goal, with Mike Murphy the backup.

For more on tonight's game, check out the preview here.
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Posted On Tuesday, 12.13.2011 / 1:02 PM

By Alain Poupart -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Panthers put Theodore back in net to face Devils

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Panthers goalie Jose Theodore will get the chance to quickly atone for his first bad performance of the season.

Coach Kevin Dineen said after the morning skate that Theodore will be back in net Tuesday night when Florida faces the New Jersey Devils.

Theodore was pulled after the second period of Sunday's 6-1 loss to the New York Rangers after allowing six goals on 22 shots. Despite that rough outing, Theodore will go into the New Jersey game with an 11-6-3 record with a 2.39 GAA and a .922 save percentage.

Sunday marked the first time this season that Theodore was pulled for ineffectiveness. He was replaced after the second period of an Oct. 22 game against the New York Islanders because a lower-body injury.

Theodore was in the net against New Jersey on Nov. 21 when the Panthers rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win 4-3.

"He's the right guy for the job," Dineen said. "He's played extremely well for us and he's given us a chance to win every night. He threw a stinker at us, like the rest of the crew, the other night. Now, you rebound and you come back and that's what's great about having people that have great experience. They move on and get ready for the next one."

The Panthers will face the Devils without the services of rookie defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who suffered a charley horse in the Rangers game.

That came after Gudbranson scored his first NHL goal.

Here are the projected lines for tonight's game:

DEVILS

Petr Sykora - Patrik Elias - Dainius Zubrus
Zach Parise - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Eric Boulton - Ryan Carter - David Clarkson
Mattias Tedenby - Tim Sestito - Cam Janssen

Henrik Tallinder - Mark Fayne
Bryce Salvador - Kurtis Foster
Alexander Urbom - Adam Larsson

Martin Brodeur
Johan Hedberg

PANTHERS
Tomas Fleischmann - Stephen Weiss - Kris Versteeg
Marco Sturm - Tomas Kopecky - Mikael Samuelsson
Sean Bergenheim - Shawn Matthias - Jack Skille
Krystofer Barch - Mike Santorelli - Matt Bradley

Jason Garrison - Brian Campbell
Dmitry Kulikov - Mike Weaver
Ed Jovanovski - Keaton Ellerby

Jose Theodore
Scott Clemmensen
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Quote of the Day

I mean, hockey had to change the rules because of Marty, and that's impressive. I got two Stanley Cup rings because of the guy. Look at the banners of [Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Ken Daneyko] and Marty is right up there when you think about the New Jersey Devils; he was part of the core group and he'll go down as one of the greatest goalies ever.

— New Jersey Devils center Scott Gomez on former teammate Martin Brodeur, who will announce his retirement Thursday