Although nothing is official yet, the New Jersey Devils goalie, who is still seven wins shy of tying Patrick Roy's record for all-time wins, could return from his left biceps injury as early as Thursday's game against Colorado at the Prudential Center.
Not only has that news been widely speculated in local press reports around the Devils for the last two weeks, Brodeur himself wrote about it as a possibility in his weekly Sunday column for ruefrontenac.com.
According to The Record (Hackensack, N.J.), which translated the column from French to English, Brodeur wrote, "I (still) aim for a return to the game Thursday when the Avalanche visit New Jersey."
Brodeur, who has been out since Nov. 1, reiterated his stance to play when he met with reporters following New Jersey's practice Monday afternoon. He was sick Saturday and did not make the trip to Long Island for that night's game, but did accompany the Devils on their trip to Florida last week. He has been practicing with the Devils since Feb. 14.
"(The coaches) know that I'm ready to go," Brodeur said, according to The Record. "I told them a few days ago. I kind of got sick. I wasn't supposed to play on (Long) Island anyway. I think it was good to take some time off too just to get me back. I told them I'm ready and it's up to them to look at me and feel comfortable. That's the bottom line. They have to feel comfortable having me there."
Devils coach Brent Sutter has refused to speculate when Brodeur will return, but he has never ruled out Thursday as a possibility. The Devils also play afternoon home games Saturday and Sunday against Florida and Philadelphia, respectively.
Sutter said he would first have to discuss Brodeur's situation with goalie coach Jacques Caron as well as CEO/President/General Manager Lou Lamoriello before making a decision regarding his starting goalie for Thursday's game.
"It's a situation where - I've said this before - it's not training camp," Sutter said Monday, according to The Record. "You're in the last 20-something games of the season. You're playing teams at a high level now and you need your goaltending to be sharp."
That surprisingly has been the case for the Devils ever since Brodeur tore a tendon in his left biceps on Nov. 1 against Atlanta. He had surgery to reattach the tendon on Nov. 6, exactly 16 weeks from Thursday.
Scott Clemmensen has been mostly remarkable with 25 wins, a .917 save percentage, a 2.39 goals against average and two shutouts. Kevin Weekes has also won seven games with a .924 save percentage and 2.32 goals against average.
The Devils are in first place by eight points over the Philadelphia Flyers, but Brodeur might be coming back at the perfect time as Clemmensen has given up 13 goals in the last three games, signs he may be tiring.
Clemmensen has played in 40 NHL games this season. He played in 28 over the previous six, including only three games with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season.
"Any time you get the best goalie to ever play back in the lineup, it's a good thing," Devils forward Brian Rolston said, according to The Associated Press. "Clemmer and Weeksie have done a great job all year, but to have Marty back gives you a goalie that has won big games for sure, and that has won Stanley Cups and everything else, and has all the records."
Brodeur, who has 544 career wins, still needs eight to break Roy's record. The Devils have 22 games left this season, so if Brodeur comes back Thursday and regains his pre-injury form soon after there is still a very good chance he can become the all-time wins leader this season, something that seemed like a forgone conclusion back in October.
He is also five shutouts shy of tying Terry Sawchuk's all-time record of 103. Brodeur had six wins, including two shutouts, in 10 starts before suffering the injury.
"I have played against him and he is certainly a guy when you are going out to play, he is one of the considerations you are thinking about," Devils wing Brendan Shanahan said, according to The Associated Press. "Very few goalies in the game have that sort of effect."
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