"It doesn't matter what style a goalie plays, the team is going to play around him. He's definitely one of the best in the League and it's great that he's back, but our game didn't change and it won't change."
-- Colin White
That was the general consensus Wednesday morning from the New Jersey Devils players and coach Brent Sutter when asked if Martin Brodeur's return requires the team to alter its game or style one bit to suit No. 30.
"It doesn't matter what style a goalie plays, the team is going to play around him," defenseman Colin White told NHL.com. "He's definitely one of the best in the League and it's great that he's back, but our game didn't change and it won't change."
Brodeur will make his return to the Devils' net Thursday night when they host the Colorado Avalanche at the Prudential Center. Since he left halfway through their Nov. 1 game at Atlanta, the Devils have cemented themselves as a contender in the Eastern Conference and are currently in prime position to win the Atlantic Division.
"You have to avoid leaning on him and expecting him to just carry it," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner told NHL.com. "We got to where we are because we did a lot of things as a team and the goalies in the net (Scott Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes) were doing the job.
"Now we have to allow him to do his job and we have to continue to do ours. It's a risk if you expect him to carry it because that's not the way for us to be successful."
The defensemen, however, will have to adjust ever so slightly to Brodeur because of how well and how often he plays the puck. Brodeur is known as one of, if not the best, puck-handling goalie in the NHL, and it requires more communication when you play with him as opposed to Clemmensen or Weekes.
"With Marty, you need to talk to him," defenseman Paul Martin told NHL.com. "He's always going to go back there and try to get it and whenever he gets it you have to let him know if you're open and if you can play it. So, it's a little more yelling; but at the same time he knows what he's doing so you can just go back there and let him make a play."
"Most of us have played with him for a while so we know what he does and we're used to it," Martin continued. "It might take a little bit to get back, but it shouldn't take too long."
Sutter, who stressed how the Devils have to "stay the course in how we do things and the way we play," believes Brodeur's puck handling will again be a benefit to the defensemen.
It's not that it takes away any of their responsibilities, but it does ease the burden a bit.
"It's another thing in a game that helps when you have a goaltender that can do that, but not a lot of goaltenders can handle the puck like Marty does," Sutter said. "He's unique in that so it's certainly something that helps."
The timing of Brodeur's return seems perfect.
Normally this is the time of the year when the question "Is Marty playing too much? Will he be fresh for the playoffs?" is posed.
Since Brodeur hasn't played in 50 games, he's most definitely fresh -- both physically and mentally. Langenbrunner believes that is something that "could be a blessing in disguise when it's all said and done.
"He's not 28 or 29 anymore and mentally these four months of getting away is going to be a benefit," he said. "I think it was good for our team in that we learned we could win games without him. We know what he's capable of, especially at playoff time, and he's coming into it fresh, excited and ready to go. He usually starts off pretty good to start a season, so we're not worried about him being sharp."
Contact Dan Rosen at firstname.lastname@example.org