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Brodeur to start vs. Florida on Saturday

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Brodeur will be back in net Saturday against Florida. – Martin Brodeur joked that the excitement of his comeback, 545th career win and 99th career shutout lasted only as long as the ride home, when it was time to get back to reality.

He woke up early on Friday, dropped off the kids at school, then headed for practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion. Just another morning of errands for the goaltender now even closer to becoming the NHL’s all-time leader in wins and shutouts.

The night before, it was as though he’d never missed 50 games with an elbow injury. Brodeur stopped 24 Colorado shots for a 4-0 win in his first appearance since Nov. 1.

But it did feel a little unfamiliar, even for someone with 979 games under his belt.

“I was definitely a little tired when I got home,” Brodeur said. “I sat on the couch and thought, ‘Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve done that.’”

Following his nearly four-month absence, Brodeur stepped right in and moved within six of Patrick Roy’s League mark for wins (551) and four of Terry Sawchuk’s record for shutouts (103). Thursday’s performance represented the best of the best-case scenarios for the four-time Vezina Trophy winner.

“It definitely exceeded expectations,” he said. “I just wanted to win, you throw a shutout in there regardless of how many shots, how many chances they got, it’s still pretty nice to do. They’re not easy to come by in this new League. I’m just happy with how I felt and how my arm felt, the reponse from everybody. I hadn’t done it in so long, it was just nice to get back.”

Devils head coach Brent Sutter said Brodeur’s work ethic was key. His netminder has three shutouts in 11 starts this season.

“The biggest thing is that Marty has worked hard to get himself back to where he is,” Sutter said. “Jacques [Caron] did a great job with the guys that were here, [Kevin Weekes] and [Scott Clemmensen], when Marty was gone, and he’s worked hard with him here since he came back to get Marty where he is now.”

Brodeur will give it another go on Saturday, when he gets the start against Florida at 1 p.m. For now, decisions on his starts will come day-to-day.

“I just told [Brent] how I felt [after practice], and they made the decision that they wanted,” Brodeur said. “It’s an unknown a little bit for me as far as how I’ll feel day in, day out. I’m sure two weeks from now, we won’t talk about that, but right now it’s going to take a while to see how I am. For [Saturday], I’m fine.”

The best news is that his surgically-repaired left elbow has gotten through the challenges of an NHL game and continues to be pain-free.

“During the [Colorado] game the whole game there was no [problem with] movement, no shooting the puck, and that was probably one of the biggest surprises because the first couple of times I just went out there and shot the puck without even thinking,” Brodeur said. “I’m like, ‘That didn’t hurt.’ Usually I feel it a little bit, and there was nothing. I was pretty happy. That’s why we took our time: it has to be my reaction and not everything calculated all the time because in a hockey game you don’t calculate every single movement that you make.”

Now it’s a matter of Brodeur finding his rhythm. Twenty-one games remain on the Devils’ regular-season schedule. They hold a six-point lead in the Atlantic Division over second-place Philadelphia and trail Washington by two points for second in the Eastern Conference.

“I’m trying to get back to where I was when I left and have a good run in the playoffs,” Brodeur said. “The years are going by, but they aren’t coming back on me either, so it’s important that I take every opportunity as seriously as I can from now until the time when I stop playing and make the best out of those. There’s not many left; there will be a lot more than people think maybe, but definitely the bulk is in the past.”  

With the Devils’ shot at an eighth division title on the line, Brodeur is gearing up for an eventful conclusion to his 15th NHL campaign. This year, Jersey’s Team established itself as much more than any one player, and Brodeur hopes to lead the group to even greater heights in the postseason.

“You look at the situation that you’re in,” Brodeur said. “You walk into this locker room and you’re like ‘These guys played pretty well.’ We went out and beat some great teams at a critical time in the season. There’s a good opportunity here. For me it’s a driving point to get to where I need to be to support that cast and go as far as we can.”

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