Brodeur took part in the Devils' practice Monday at AmeriHealth Pavilion, and said afterward that things are looking up for an imminent comeback. The four-time Vezina Trophy winner has missed 50 games since suffering a left elbow injury on Nov. 1.
“I feel good,” Brodeur said. “I felt it was nice to get into the rhythm a little bit at practice so it was definitely good.”
Brodeur said Monday’s skate was the most intense of any he has participated in since he began skating. Brodeur’s left distal bicep tendon was surgically repaired on Nov. 6.
“My arm is good, and my reaction time is getting better and better each day,” he said.
New Jersey (38-19-3) closed out a busy stretch of nine games in 16 days with Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. Given Sunday off, the team is looking to recharge before opening a homestand of three games in four nights, beginning Thursday against Colorado.
Brodeur feels ready to go whenever he's called upon. For the time being, however, no announcement has been made on when he will get his next start.
“I don’t want to speculate on whether it’s going to be Thursday, Saturday, Sunday or next week… I don’t know,” head coach Brent Sutter said. “It’s a situation where, I’ve said this before, it’s not training camp. These last 22 games of the season, you’re playing teams at a high level now, you need your goaltending to be sharp.”
The Devils' coaching staff will monitor Brodeur’s recovery closely in the days ahead.
“We need to get through some practices here. No question,” Sutter continued. “I think that he needs some game-like situations here in practice. Shooting’s one thing, but also the timing of things happening and 3-on-3 siuations and down-low plays around the net. He'll probably get some scrimmage time here in the next couple of days where he can get a feel for that too.”
• Monday’s practice began with Sutter pulling the players off the ice for a 15-minute meeting.
“Brent just wanted to relay a message that he was thinking about on his day off. We have to get back to where we were before,” John Madden said. “These last games are important for us going into the playoffs on a big push and on a high rather than stumbling in.”
The skate that followed included some high-intensity drills.
“The biggest thing is getting back to the little things – the fundamentals – that make us successful,” Madden said. “Today was a little bit more of a skating practice, with some puck movement drills. We broke up into ends and did defensive zone coverage, and that's probably the most important thing. We have to get back to playing good defense. We've given up way too many chances, so if we get back to keeping our chances down, we'll get more chances on the offensive end.”
• Paul Martin practiced Monday and reported that his upper body soreness is feeling better.
Martin has missed four games and last played in New Jersey’s 1-0 win over Boston on Feb. 13.
“I'm trying not to push it too hard since we have these couple of days here to make sure it's feeling good. I was able to do everything today,” he said.
Martin echoed that the four days between games should be just the thing to help the Devils shake off their recent 1-2-0 road trip. The fifth-year defenseman is second in points (19) among Devils' blueliners with four goals and 15 assists.
“It'll be good to take a step back and refocus and get ready for the homestretch here,” he said. “We have a good group of guys in the locker room, and everybody knows that when we're playing well we have a chance to win every night so hopefully we can get back to that.”
Said Sutter of Martin: “We were very careful last week, making sure that when he does come back he’s as close to 100% as he can be.”
Despite two shutout losses in their last three games, the Devils are ahead by eight points in the Atlantic Division and are just two shy of San Jose's League-leading 40 wins.
“It’s a good time to have three days here where we can really focus in on what we need to do,” Sutter said. “I think it’s a good little mental break for the players, too. We have to get our game back to where we want to be; to where we can have some success. This past week I don’t think anyone was happy with how we played and we have to get it back.
"As difficult as this week has been, we still have 38 wins. We’re still among the top four teams in the League in wins, we’re still in the top  in offense, we’re still in the top five in defense.”
|Shanahan wore pads over his laces during Saturday's game on Long Island. |
• Brendan Shanahan did not skate Monday after taking a shot off his right foot in the third period of Thursday’s 3-2 shootout win at Tampa Bay.
Shanahan’s soreness was in the same foot that cost him two games after he made a potentially game-saving block against Boston’s Dennis Wideman on Feb. 13. Shanahan returned versus the Lightning, then saw 19 shifts for 12:34 ice time Saturday against the Isles.
“They decided to just rest it today and try to get the swelling out of it again, which we had done a pretty good job of for three or four days,” he said. “Then, in my first game back, I took a shot in the same foot.”
Shanahan added an instep pad that laces onto the front of his skate, and said he may try wearing more protection similar to the style used by Colin White.
“It’s mostly just a fluky, freak accident. You get hit with pucks a lot, but to get hit in the same spot four or five times in the course of two games? I’m trying to block them, but with my whole body, not just my right foot. You’re just thinking, 'Hit my other ankle or best case, hit my shin pads,'” he said.
Shanahan hoped to be back on the ice for practice on Tuesday.