It's been awhile since Martin Brodeur
has had to follow his gameday routine.
Brodeur hasn't played since injuring his elbow on Nov. 1 against Atlanta. Following surgery and rehab, Brodeur spent the past week practicing with the Devils and determined Wednesday that he was ready.
He'll be back between the pipes Thursday night, when Jersey's Team hosts Colorado at Prudential Center.
For all the buzz regarding his return, Brodeur said he's doing his best to take it all in stride.
"I’m trying to make it just another day," Brodeur told reporters Thursday morning. "That’s the bottom line. I can’t let myself get overwhelmed by the situation. I’m happy to be back and I know it’s going to be a different feeling. I feel it now, just being at the rink and knowing I’m going to play tonight. I haven’t had that feeling in a while. After today, it’s going to be old news. I’m just going to take it all in and be as ready as I can to do well tonight."
And even though he's coming back to the lineup after missing 50 games, the four-time Vezina Trophy winner isn't about to change a thing.
"There’s nothing that I’m going to do differently than the prior 14, 15 years," he said. "Get a nap in, have a good meal. Sleep, get up and come back – it’s pretty simple."
Brodeur's quest for history has been on hiatus since November, but now the wins watch resumes. With 544 career victories, he needs seven to match Patrick Roy's all-time record (551) and isn't afraid to discuss it.
"It’s a pretty great thing," Brodeur said. "I was excited earlier this season to talk about it and try to achieve it. Now it’s coming up in seven, eight wins from now. It is what it is, and I’m OK to deal with it. But right now it’s not something that I’m looking forward to; I’m looking forward to getting back to playing hockey and being comfortable in the nets and getting myself ready for the playoffs.
"It will come. It was definitely disappointing to have a big halt in my season, like it happened on Nov. 1, but now I’m back and I’ll try to stay healthy. I’m not going to not talk about it. It is what it is, and I know I’ll have to answer questions [about the record] as we get closer and closer."
The Devils entered Thursday's contest holding a four-point lead for first place in the Atlantic Division. Second-place Philadelphia, which visits Newark on Sunday, has gone 7-2-0 in its last nine.
Where some predicted New Jersey would struggle without their No. 1 goalie, the Devils have won 14 of their last 18 and sit two points behind Washington for second place in the Eastern Conference.
"I feel I’m OK to go out and meet the challenge," Brodeur said. "I’m confident in my abilities and I’m really confident in the way that the team is playing. Watching them, I’ve been really excited to get back in there and be a part of what they’ve accomplished in the last four months while I was gone."
Brodeur cautioned that the regular season's final stretch can be daunting. Now that he's back, he'll be going head-to-head with clubs trying to scratch and claw their way into a postseason berth. Still, Brodeur sounded positive about New Jersey's prospects.
"I’m coming into a season at one of the toughest points, and I understand that," he said. "I know the last 20 games are the hardest points to get in the NHL. It’s easy to play well early on. The toughest part is this stretch because you’re playing teams that are desperate to make the playoffs, fighting for positioning, fighting for top spots. It makes it hard. I know it’s a situation that will be tough a little bit, but I feel with what I can bring and the team the way it can play, we’ll be alright."