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Brodeur again chasing all-time League goalie marks

by Dan Rosen
Five wins and four shutouts away from becoming the gold standard for every past, present and future goaltender on the planet, Martin Brodeur admits the records he's chasing once again are very much on his mind.

"Everybody has been talking about it every time I move closer to them," Brodeur said Monday on a conference call. "It's hard not to think about them."

Brodeur, who was named the NHL's First Star of the Week after posting a 3-0-0 record with two shutouts in his first three games back from a four-month absence due to injury, enters Tuesday's game against Toronto with 547 wins and 100 shutouts.

If New Jersey continues its current surge, there is the very real possibility that Brodeur can break or at least tie Patrick Roy's all-time wins record of 551 on Saturday, March 14, when the Devils just so happen to be playing in Montreal -- Brodeur's hometown -- on Hockey Night in Canada.

Talk about a coincidence, huh?

All Brodeur, who grew up a bike ride away from the Montreal Forum, has to do is take a peak at his Devils pocket schedule to see that possibility exists, but that would be looking too far ahead. Toronto is on the schedule first and on Tuesday, and even though the records are on his mind, the more pressing matter for Brodeur is to continue his comeback from the devastating elbow injury that sidelined him for 50 games.

"I'm concentrating on getting my game to the level where it needs to be when the playoffs come," Brodeur said. "It's a nice start for me. I didn't have much expectations for the way I'd come back from the injury. But now, being on the eve of (the records), it will be in the back of my mind. Hopefully we'll do it quickly and move on."

The fast start to his return doesn't come as a surprise to many who have followed his phenomenal career. With his history of success, why would we expect anything less?

The goalie, though, admitted Monday that he is "a little bit" surprised by "how quickly I felt good in the net. I thought it would take me a little longer to feel at ease and not worry about making decisions."

After facing live shots for close to a month, Brodeur knew he was ready to play again. How he would fare in a real game, though, was a question he couldn't answer, so he went into last Thursday's first game back, against the Colorado Avalanche, just trying to get his feet wet again.

"I just wanted to go out, feel good and have it be second nature again playing hockey," Brodeur said.

He made 24 saves in a 4-0 blanking of the Avalanche -- his 99th career shutout. Brodeur, though, said his comfort level didn't totally return that night. He admittedly was tired after the game, spent from the emotions of his return and the pressure he felt with everyone watching and dissecting his every move, every save.

"My first game I didn't feel like my old self," he said.

A day and a half later, when the Devils entertained Florida for an afternoon game at the Prudential Center, Brodeur faced only 17 shots and made 15 saves in a 7-2 victory. It was good enough. He made another 27 saves in a 3-0 blanking of Philadelphia on Sunday for his 100th shutout.

"The second and third game I just felt natural in there," Brodeur said. "I felt I belonged in those games."

What great news that is for the Devils.

With the pedal down for the stretch drive, New Jersey's hockey team has its No. 1 goalie back.

Even better, Brodeur, who played in 70-plus games in each of the last 10 seasons, hasn't been this fresh heading into the spring since the lockout shortened 1994-95 season.

You do remember what he did in those Stanley Cup Playoffs, right?

Sixteen wins. Three shutouts. Only four losses. His first Stanley Cup.

"You have to take every positive you can from an injury," Brodeur said. "Sometimes it's hard to have them, but definitely not playing as many games, we'll see what kind of success that translates to in the playoffs. The last time I didn't play a lot was '95 when we had a lockout. It was different reasons, but definitely that was a pretty good year for us."

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