NEWARK, N.J. -- Goalie Martin Brodeur will be on the bench serving as backup to Johan Hedberg on Tuesday when the New Jersey Devils host the New York Rangers at Prudential Center (MSG PLUS 2, 7 p.m. ET).
After being sidelined the past 11 games with a pinched nerve in his neck/upper back that was causing numbness in his shoulder and arm, the 40-year-old Brodeur feels strong enough to return to the active roster against the Rangers.
"That's the plan now … I've been given the OK and that's the way we're going now," Brodeur said after his second straight practice with the team on Tuesday. "It's been fun the last two days being in the room and knowing what's going on a little bit. When you're injured, you're always on the side doing your own thing, so it's nice to be back."
Brodeur hasn't played since making 19 saves in a 3-2 victory against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 21. After a planned game off Feb. 23 against the Washington Capitals, Brodeur removed himself from the lineup during pre-game warm-ups prior to the Devils' home game Feb. 24 against the Winnipeg Jets.
The last time Brodeur wasn't the starter against the Atlantic Division rival Rangers was Feb. 18, 2011, at Prudential Center, when he was recovering from a sprained MCL in his right knee. Hedberg would ultimately stop 16 shots in a 1-0 victory.
Brodeur said he expects to be in starting lineup on Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh. He's been symptom-free for a week-and-a-half, staying away from any rigorous exercise activity for two weeks during his rehab.
"They did MRI's and they saw something was blocking the nerve root and could have been anything," Brodeur said. "It's something that sometimes takes up to two or three months to heal, but everyone is different. They could do surgery if it didn't get any better, but then you can't play for eight or nine weeks so that wasn't an option. Not that they thought about doing it, but it was a last resort type of tying if in three months it wasn't resolved."
For the season, Brodeur is 8-2-3 with a 2.27 goals-against average, .911 save percentage and one shutout. He is the National Hockey League's all-time career leader among goalies in games played (1,204), victories (664) and shutouts (120).
Hedberg, meanwhile, will make his 13th straight start for the Devils on Tuesday. He has started every game in Brodeur's absence and is 3-7-2 with a 2.92 GAA and .860 save percentage in the past 12 starts. In 16 games this season, the 39-year-old Hedberg is 5-8-3 with a 2.71 GAA, .888 save percentage and one shutout.
"I feel normal; no difference," Hedberg told NHL.com. "We've had a couple of days in between games, so it feels like we're all refreshed again."
Devils coach Pete DeBoer said forward Andrei Loktionov will miss his second straight game with an undisclosed injury. Loktionov did participate in Tuesday's morning skate with the team.
Just four healthy players skipped the optional on Tuesday: Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, Patrik Elias and captain Bryce Salvador.
The Devils are 8-2-2 against Atlantic Division foes this season, while the Rangers are 4-5-1. Despite outshooting their opponent in 10 straight games (3-5-2), the Devils have still been outscored, 30-19, over that stretch.
Here is the probable Devils' lineup for Tuesday against the Rangers:
Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk
Harri Pesonen - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson
Ryan Carter - Travis Zajac - Steve Bernier
Krystofer Barch - Stephen Gionta - Tom Kostopoulos
Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky
Andy Greene - Peter Harrold
Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson
Scratched: Mark Fayne
Injured: Dainius Zubrus (left wrist), Andrei Loktionov (undisclosed), Henrik Tallinder (lower body)