newjerseydevils.com – Martin Brodeur
’s rehab continued Thursday at AmeriHealth Pavilion, where he was the only goaltender on the ice for the Devils’ optional practice. It was the first time Brodeur had suited up since joining the tail end of Monday’s morning skate.
Brent Sutter was among those taking shots on Brodeur. Also participating were David Clarkson
, Bobby Holik, Jay Leach
, Jay Pandolfo, and Mike Rupp.
Sutter laughed when asked if he was picking corners on the four-time Vezina Trophy winner, and said he was “trying.” The head coach sounded pleased with his goaltender’s progress.
“Every day he’s getting a little stronger, a little bit better conditioned,” Sutter said. Brodeur had surgery to repair his left distal bicep tendon on Nov. 6.
“When you’re facing more shooters now, and we’re going to move forward here being able to get into full practices, his conditioning level will get better every day,” Sutter said. “His stamina is the biggest thing. It’s one thing to be able to do all this stuff off the ice, but it’s another when you have to get out there with full equipment on and take shots and keep moving. It’s just getting himself sharp. Every day’s progress, and that’s the important thing.”
The Devils made it back-to-back wins at the Rock on Wednesday night, when Zach Parise
and Jamie Langenbrunner each scored twice in a 4-2 triumph over the visiting New York Islanders.
Parise set a new career high with his 33rd and 34th goals, while Kevin Weekes made 23 saves for a win in his first home start since Nov. 21. The Devils registered 50 shots for the first time since 2003.
Following Wednesday’s action, New Jersey had an eight-point cushion for first place in the Atlantic Division and sat tied in points (73) with Washington for second place in the Eastern Conference.
Jersey’s Team will face two big tests to conclude its season-high five-game road trip as the league-leading Boston Bruins visit Friday, followed by the Western Conference-leading San Jose Sharks on Sunday afternoon.
Sutter’s less concerned about upcoming opponents than he is the play of his own team, which he said must stay at a high level to compete.
“I guess they always say there are measuring sticks, but for me it’s more about just continuing to play well,” he said. “I get more focused on our own team and what we do and how we have to play. When we do things the right way, we always seem to play well. It seems to really enhance our chances, obviously, of being successful.
"Playing two teams that are one and two in the NHL, and yet the one team we’ve played twice already and have had two very, very close games with. I look at these two games – they’re big games – and yet, when we’re up to our standards, we can compete and play with anybody.”
After Sunday’s contest, New Jersey will play three on the road, including a swing through Florida. They visit the Panthers on Tuesday, and the Lightning on Thursday.
Sutter said the chances were “probably pretty good,” that Brodeur would join the team on the trip.
"How much we’ll practice there, I don’t know. That’s kind of a day-to-day thing. There’s some things we can do with certain guys that we do with Marty, and that way he can he stay on the ice and keep going.”