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Brodeur's chase continues in Montreal

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils

Brodeur will battle the Canadiens in a packed Bell Centre on Saturday.

email – For Martin Brodeur, Friday’s afternoon practice at AmeriHealth Pavilion was the calm before the storm. After speaking to the media, Brodeur and the Devils got on a plane for Montreal, where the four-time Vezina Trophy winner will have a chance to match Patrick Roy’s all-time wins record Saturday night at the Bell Centre.

Brodeur knows he’s heading into a hostile arena that’s passionate about the hometown team, and neither the Canadiens nor their fans will plan on making life easy for the Montreal native as he attempts to tie Roy’s mark of 551.

But Brodeur, who has triumphed on hockey's biggest stages — the Stanley Cup Finals, Olympics and World Cup of Hockey – said he’s capable of using the energy of a raucous crowd to his advantage.

Brodeur will try for career win No. 551 Saturday in Montreal.
“It’s always exciting, the (Montreal) crowd’s always revved up,” Brodeur said Friday. “I think it helps me. I know what kind of situation I’m going into, and I definitely don’t think they want me to do it there. If you’re a team, you don’t want anybody to do something in your building, that’s just the nature of things. I know if someone comes into my building, we want them to do it somewhere else. That’s just the bottom line. (The Canadiens) are definitely trying to get themselves together before the playoffs start, so it’ll be a tough game. I think focus will be on that more than anything.”

With a chance to consider what his next win will mean for NHL history, Brodeur said he wasn’t nervous. But he couldn’t guarantee he’d keep his composure over the next 24 hours with so much of the focus on how he’ll fare in his quest for career victory No. 551.

Brodeur, who has not faced the Canadiens this season, is 34-15-5 against them all-time, with a 1.80 goals-against average and eight shutouts.

“It’s overwhelming a little bit, the attention that you get,” Brodeur said. “I’m used to it to a certain extent, but it never gets old. It’s always a little nerve-wracking, I have to answer question after question. The attention is on you a lot. I didn’t feel it so far since I’ve come back besides my first game, but that was for different reasons. So now, we’re getting shots at it, and hopefully we’ll get it done quickly so we can move on. I’ll be nervous, but when the puck drops, it’ll be so loud in there that you’ll try to forget about everything and you’re gonna try to survive and have a good game.”

Devils’ head coach Brent Sutter isn’t at all concerned about Brodeur’s mindset. New Jersey’s starting goaltender returned to the lineup on Feb. 26 after missing 50 games with an elbow injury. All he’s done since coming back is take six of seven – including career shutouts No, 99 and 100 – to lead the Devils to a nine-point lead for first place in the Atlantic Division with 15 games remaining.

“Obviously this is an exciting time for him personally, and the emotions he’s going through are certainly going to be high," Sutter said. "But I think Marty’s a professional, and very professional in the way he goes about things. He’s been through a lot of different scenarios as far as Stanley Cups, and different things that have occurred throughout his career. Maybe nothing to this standard as an individual, but that being said, Marty’s handled everything in the right way. With his make-up, I’m not too worried about it.”

Sutter also hoped that his club could feed off of the situation.

“It’s somewhat uncharted waters as far as everything that’s going on,” Sutter said. “It’s something they should feel very good about and excited about. I look at it as just another thing for us to be motivated about to make sure we are playing well.”

Much like the rest of the Devils organization, Sutter can’t wait to see Brodeur do it.

“This is a great thing for the game,” the coach said. “Marty going back, in his hometown, has an opportunity there to tie the mark. Of course with it being Montreal, I’m sure our opposition is not going to want to allow it to happen, and we’re going to do everything we can to try and make it happen. It makes for a very interesting day leading up to the game, and then the game itself. And at the end of the day, it is about the game. For me, it’s about making sure we keep our focus and do what we need to do to make sure we give ourselves a chance to be able to succeed. It has been pretty amazing to see how the schedule worked out, and to see things work out the way they have." 

Brodeur, who had 365 wins when Roy retired in 2003, didn’t figure he’d have a shot at the record until he had reached 500 wins himself on Nov. 17, 2007 against the Flyers. Now Brodeur can reach Roy’s mark six years after Roy left the game, while Terry Sawchuk’s previous record of 447 stood for three decades from 1970 to 2000.

“I thought, ‘Wow, 51, how many years is that, like two years?’” Brodeur said after getting to 500 victories. “‘Less than two years depending on how it goes?’ That’s when I kind of saw it, not necessarily saying that I needed the record, but just that this is the average number of games that I win a year, and you just do the math. If I stayed healthy, which I didn’t do, I figured it should happen at a certain time. Now the time has come, and it’s right there in front of me.”

As important as every point can be during hockey’s stretch run, Sutter has an eye on keeping his team sharp for winning Saturday’s game. Still, he couldn’t help but acknowledge how big this next outing might be.

“I think we all should enjoy it,” Sutter said. “As a coach you’re making sure your team is trying to keep its focus to do the things it needs to do to allow it to happen. Once it does happen, you continue on. You continue on with the process. Having that mindset is not at all taking away from the fact that this is a very special thing.”

Though playing Saturday in his hometown, the game won't quite be a family affair for Brodeur. His sons Anthony, William and Jeremy won't be able to attend because they're competing in hockey tournaments, and daughter Annabelle is with them on the trip. If he's in position to break the record at home Tuesday against the Blackhawks, Brodeur hopes to have them at Prudential Center.

Brodeur's wife, Genevieve, will be at Saturday's game with Brodeur's father, Denis, and siblings. His mother, Mireille, doesn't like crowds has not seen him play in person since juniors. Brodeur said she plans to watch on TV.

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