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Defense answering the call for New Jersey

by Eric Marin / New Jersey Devils
Brodeur leads a Devils defense that has held opponents under a goal per game in three wins. – The offense might still be trying to find its rhythm, but the Devils' defensive play already appears to be in mid-season form.

New Jersey (3-1-0) grabbed its third win of the season Thursday night, blanking the Thrashers 1-0 in Atlanta.

Brian Rolston scored on the power play and Martin Brodeur made 25 saves for his first shutout of the season and 97th of his career. He moved within 10 of Patrick Roy's all-time wins mark of 551, and sits six shy of Terry Sawchuk's record of 103 shutouts.

So far, Brodeur has backstopped the Devils to three one-goal triumphs, and has held opponents to a goal or less in three of his four starts. New Jersey has smothered some of the NHL's top scoring talent in those games, keeping Sidney Crosby and Ilya Kovalchuk off the scoresheet while limiting Evgeni Malkin to one assist in Saturday's 2-1 overtime win at Pittsburgh.

Brodeur's only loss thus far, a 4-1 defeat to the Rangers, included a fluky goal off of his catching glove and two redirections in front of the net.

The Devils' next home game is against Dallas on Wednesday, Oct. 22, when the team hosts Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night at 7 p.m.

But this is familiar territory for the Devils' goaltender, who is no stranger to narrow victories. Eleven of Brodeur's 44 wins last season came in one-goal regulation decisions, with another 14 coming via overtime or shootout. Through four games this season, Brodeur has allowed only five goals to the tune of a league-best 1.23 goal-against average.

Brodeur's efforts have been supported by the Devils' defensemen, all of whom are even or better in the plus-minus department. Colin White leads the club with a plus-4.

New Jersey's next test comes Saturday in Washington, where the team will face Alexander Ovechkin and the Capitals. Washington (3-1-0) is led by Alexander Semin's eight points (4g-4a) and entered Friday tied with the Rangers for the second most goals scored in the league (17).

The Devils return home to face the Dallas Stars on Wednesday, Oct. 22, when the team hosts Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night at Prudential Center. On Friday, New Jersey opens a home-and-home series with Philadelphia in Newark, then plays Saturday at Wachovia Center.

A meeting with Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 29, begins a four-game homestand for the Devils, who also host Atlanta (Sat., Nov. 1), Buffalo (Mon., Nov. 3), and Tampa Bay (Wed., Nov. 5).

Defenseman Anssi Salmela has been assigned to Lowell (AHL).

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