Scott Clemmensen understands that what happened was just business. It’s not a knock on the 31-year-old goaltender, nor is it a reflection of what he was able to accomplish while filling in for an injured Martin Brodeur
But with Brodeur healthy again and ready to play Thursday against Colorado, Clemmensen was re-assigned Wednesday to Lowell (AHL).
“Obviously, I was disappointed,” Clemmensen said via conference call. “I understand the business side of the sport. I understand all the options that were available to the team. I wish there was another alternative, but the situation is what it is. I’m disappointed in this scenario, but at the same time, I feel like I don’t have any regrets. I made the most of an opportunity that I had and I’m not going to take any bitterness with me. I have the utmost respect for [Devils' President/CEO/GM] Mr. [Lou] Lamoriello and the entire organization. That hasn’t changed at all."
Clemmensen split goaltending duties with Kevin Weekes, but shouldered most of the workload while Brodeur recovered from surgery to repair an injured left elbow.
Clemmensen won 25 of 40 appearances and is tied with Carolina’s Cam Ward for the eighth-highest wins total in the NHL. The native of Des Moines, Iowa, ranks 10th in goals-against average (2.39) and is tied for 12th in save percentage (.917). He recorded shutouts in back-to-back starts against the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins on Feb. 9 and 13.
That was the highlight for me, just being a part of something where, regardless of the time on the clock or the score, we just knew we were going to win and then went out and did it. - Scott Clemmensen
“Clemmer first and foremost did a great job,” head coach Brent Sutter said. “Clemmer’s a great person and him and Weeksie have done an outstanding job since Marty’s been out. And yet, circumstances are circumstances. He took advantage of the situation and big credit to him and Weeksie for doing that.”
Team captain Jamie Langenbrunner echoed the coach’s sentiment.
“You can’t say enough about the way they came in and really took a difficult situation and really excelled in it,” Langenbrunner said. “Everybody was doubting not only us, but them. They came in and proved to a lot of people that they’re both very capable and good goalies in this league, and, when given the opportunity, they can carry a team. It’s unfortunate for Clemmer the way it worked out here today, but I’m sure he’s going to land on his feet soon somewhere, if not back here.”
Weekes had not spoken to Clemmensen Wednesday morning, but said he noticed that Clemmensen’s equipment was not at his locker stall. He commended Clemmensen’s accomplishments.
“He’s obviously shown that he can play,” Weekes said. “Before that, when he was here, he never really had an opportunity to play. Any athlete will tell you the main thing is having the opportunity and having that platform to play and learn and improve yourself. He certainly had that and did a great job with it.”
Weekes, in his second season as Brodeur’s backup, holds a 7-4-0 record after 13 appearances in 2008-09. He said that he and Clemmensen supported one another throughout Brodeur’s absence.
“You never want to see anyone go down due to injury, especially your goaltending partner,” Weekes said. “It’s frustrating and I know because I’ve been there myself. When those opportunities present themselves, all you can do is try to play your best. That’s what Clemmer and I have done, and more importantly, that’s what our team as a whole has done. If nothing else, it’s proven that regardless of how good or how dominant one individual player is in a team sport, it’s all about the collective.”
Brodeur and the Devils will open a three-game homestand Thursday when Colorado visits Prudential Center. Brodeur’s recovery is an enormous positive for a first-place Devils club that has 22 regular season games remaining.
“It’s a big boost for our team,” Weekes said. “He is who he is, soon to be the all-time winningest goalie in the history of the game, so obviously it’s nice to have him come back.”
Still, it was hard for the Devils to overstate how much Clemmensen has meant. Clemmensen said Wednesday that he had taken phone calls from different members of the Devils organization.
"It makes me feel good," he said. "It was like a family to me for the past couple of months. That’s why it’s so disappointing and why it’s going to be very hard watching the team from this point on and not being there."
It was tough for Clemmensen to pinpoint one individual high point this season. He far surpassed his previous career high of three wins, notched his first shutout in almost five seasons, and won seven straight starts from Jan. 13-30.
"The highlight for me is not really anything personal or any one game in particular," he said. "There were stretches of games where it just seemed like we knew we weren't going to lose. The confidence level that everyone had, just that team atmosphere, was a lot of fun to be a part of. That was the highlight for me, just being a part of something where, regardless of the time on the clock or the score, we just knew we were going to win and then went out and did it."