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Devils remain focused on winning, not records

Friday, 03.13.2009 / 11:53 AM / Brodeur Watch

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

"It just so happens that we're going into Montreal, Marty's hometown and there will be a lot of excitement there. The biggest thing is controlling it and making sure we keep our focus where it needs to be. That's not at all being disrespectful to what is going on. You still need to play well to win, and to play well you need to be a focused group."
-- Brent Sutter

Just how focused are the New Jersey Devils these days?

They don't even expect the media circus awaiting their goaltender, Martin Brodeur, in Montreal to faze them.

"It doesn't affect us at all," Devils forward Brian Rolston told NHL.com. "Marty has been the franchise player here, he's the best goalie to ever play the game, so you just have to expect that. It's a pleasure to be his teammate."

The Devils are expected to arrive in Montreal Friday evening. Twenty-four hours later, they'll be playing on live television across Canada on CBC and RDS and the United States on the NHL Network as Brodeur attempts to tie Patrick Roy's NHL record of 551 wins in his hometown.

You would think the attention could serve as a distraction, but they say it hasn't yet and still the Devils have built themselves a cushion in the Atlantic Division thanks to their supreme focus and attention to detail.

"As a team we focus on playing the game. We honestly don't pay a lot of attention to what is said and what is going on," Devils captain Jamie Langenbrunner told NHL.com. "We have not talked about Marty's record. I mean, we're not stupid, we all know what it is and all that, but it's not something we talk about in the locker room before the game. When he does tie it and then beat it we will acknowledge it, but until then it's just business as usual."

It's this attitude had coach Brent Sutter smiling in his postgame press conference after Thursday's 5-2 win over Phoenix.

"You know (the record) is there and yet you're trying to make sure there are no distractions, you're trying to make sure we don't lose our perspective of what the task is at hand here," Sutter said. "You know that is there and that's a positive thing. That's a tremendous thing, a great thing. The players have done an outstanding job of handling it right and we just have to continue on that process."

Langenbrunner said it's easy for the rest of the team to focus on aspects of the game other than the pending record because that's exactly what Brodeur is doing.

He is the one standing in the center of this history-making endeavor, but while taking it in, admitting he's having fun with it and understanding completely what he is close to accomplishing, Brodeur's focus has not strayed.

After a four-month absence due to elbow surgery, he just wants to make sure he's on top of his game so come playoff time the Devils have a chance for the success that more and more experts are predicting they will have.

"I think for him, especially coming back off of injury, he's so focused on getting his game in order and to play well for the team, to give us the best opportunity," Langenbrunner said. "He doesn't want to take away from that part and that's the way he has acted. It hasn't been brought up. He's just going out there and playing his game."

Nevertheless, these players are human. They are emotional. They appreciate the history of the game. They treasure it and they feel special to be a part of it, which is why they want nothing more than to help Brodeur tie Roy's record in his hometown.

"I guess when you are retired you can look back and say I was there for that game," Rolston said. "Absolutely you have to enjoy this game. It will be nice for Marty if we can do it in Montreal."

 
"Any time a teammate accomplishes something like this it is special," added Langenbrunner. "I've played with a few guys who have gotten certain milestones in their careers, but obviously this is a new level. We're excited to be a part of that game when it does happen."

Zach Parise, who is trying to make his own history by becoming the first Devils' player to score 50 goals in a season - he needs 10 more in his last 15 games to do it - brought up another reason why it's important to win in Montreal other than the obvious.

It would give Brodeur a chance to take sole possession of the record at home Tuesday night against Chicago.

"It will be great for our home crowd, our home fans to break it at home," Parise said.

It would be, but that's not how these Devils are thinking right now. That Chicago game might as well be next season for all they care.

Their focus is on the Canadiens. It has to be or history won't be made Saturday night.

"It just so happens that we're going into Montreal, Marty's hometown and there will be a lot of excitement there," Sutter said. "The biggest thing is controlling it and making sure we keep our focus where it needs to be. That's not at all being disrespectful to what is going on. You still need to play well to win, and to play well you need to be a focused group."

Contact Dan Rosen at drosen@nhl.com.
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