ST. LOUIS - Martin Brodeur will make his first home start as a Blue tonight when the team hosts the Florida Panthers at 7 p.m. at Scottrade Center (FSMW, KMOX 1120 AM).
Brodeur is coming off his first win as a Blue on Saturday. He made 14 saves in relief in a 6-4 win against the New York Islanders.
“It was good to get the first one out of the way, get the guys back on the winning track, too,” Brodeur said Monday after the morning skate. “We played a solid game from the second period on.”
Brodeur enters tonight’s game with a 40-16-9 career record against the Panthers. He boasts a 2.06 goals-against average and a .914 save-percentage against Florida.
Tonight marks the first time Brodeur will play in front of a new home crowd. The only home he’s known in his career is in New Jersey.
“I think it’s always an advantage to play in your own building,” he said. “Fans are always a big component and the reason why a team has success in their own building. I know playing against these guys throughout the years in this building, it’s always a fun place to play.”
Despite playing in 1,261 career games, he might even have a few butterflies.
“I get nervous before we put the skates on,” Brodeur said. “When I get on the ice, the only thing I worry about is stopping the puck. When you’re preparing yourself, your nervousness comes from what-ifs. When you get into the game, it’s a game. What players saw in me in New Jersey through the years is how composed I am when I play the game. It doesn’t mean I’m not excited or nervous in between periods or before games.”
The Panthers are 11-7-7 this season and are coming off a 3-2 win Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres. Brad Boyes, Tomas Kopecky and Nick Bjugstad scored for the Panthers, who also had three assists from Aaron Ekblad.
Bjugstad and Ekblad lead the club in scoring with 17 points each.
The Panthers are expected to start Roberto Luongo in goal. He’s 9-5-6 with a 2.37 goals-against average and a .925 save-percentage. Loungo and Brodeur played together in the Olympics and the World Championships. The two also are from the same hometown and shared the same midget and AAA goalie coach.
Alexander Steen, who took warm-ups Saturday on Long Island but didn’t play, has been ruled out tonight with a lower-body injury.
Carl Gunnarsson, who was hit with an elbow from Islanders forward Anders Lee on Saturday, has also been ruled out. Hitchcock said Gunnarsson is experiencing “problems” from the hit. The team is awaiting evaluations from doctors later this afternoon.
Jay Bouwmeester, who has been out with a groin injury since Nov. 22, also won’t play tonight. Hitchcock said he’s skated once in the last three days.
The Blues have won four straight games against the Panthers and outscored them 11-0 in two games last season. At Scottrade Center, the Blues have won three straight and six of their last seven against Florida.
Paul Stastny has 13 points (six goals, seven assists) in nine career games against the Panthers. Steve Ott has 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 11 games.
Alex Pietrangelo on not being surprised by Brodeur’s play: “He’s had the career he’s had for a reason. You're talking about one of the best, if not the best, goalie of all time. With that track record, he might have had a (few) months off, but it seems like he came back where he left off and hasn’t missed a beat yet.”