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Brodeur calm, comfortable heading into Blues debut

by Louie Korac

NASHVILLE -- Martin Brodeur, he of the many accolades and numerous all-time NHL milestones, was cracking jokes prior to making his first start with the St. Louis Blues on Thursday instead of agonizing over any butterflies.

Brodeur, 42, was asked how it felt to be in a Blues jersey.

"More and more comfortable," the goaltender said, before joking, "I think if they gave me a jersey that fits me, it would be perfect."

Is it too big?

"Yeah, it's too big," Brodeur said with a big grin that got media members laughing. "They gave me [Fox Sports Midwest color analyst Darren Pang's] practice jersey."

Martin Brodeur will make his first start as goalie wtih St. Louis tonight against Nashville. (Photo: Getty Images)

Such was life for Brodeur in the morning and early-afternoon hours before he was scheduled to make his first NHL appearance for a team other than the New Jersey Devils, when the Blues play the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.

Brodeur has a record of 688-394-105-71 in 21 seasons with the Devils. The wins and his 124 shutouts are first in NHL history. He won the Stanley Cup three times, the Calder Trophy in 1993-94 and the Vezina Trophy four times.

Now he will wear a Blues jersey looking to make a mark and write another chapter in his illustrious career.

"I feel good," Brodeur said. "It's important for me to go out there and feel a game situation and how I'm going to go through this thing. My expectations are always the same, to do as good as I can with myself. There's a lot of things you can't control in hockey. The only thing you can control is how you prepare yourself and the effort that you put out there. That's the way I've been playing all my career. It won't change because of the situation."

The Blues, who lost against the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Wednesday, were in a position to start Brodeur on Thursday after a tough game against a division opponent the previous night and another one in the Predators on Thursday.

"I think we have to be cautiously optimistic that he's going to play well and more importantly, we're going to play committed in front of him," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who told Brodeur on Wednesday afternoon when he would play. "I think it's twofold. He's going to want to play well, but we've got to play well and really hard in front of him because we've got a rested opponent, we've got a heck of a hockey club we're playing, a team that's been in first place in the division really since the first week of the schedule and everybody's been chasing them. They've got a great home record (10-1-1), so we know we've got to be on top of our game no matter who's in goal just to win it.

"I think it's more about us than it is about Marty. There's going to be times when you don't play for a lot and for an extended period of time, it's everything. It's traffic, it's timing, all that stuff. We're just going to have to live through that stuff and get his first game under his belt and move on."

Blues teammates expect Brodeur to bring a calming influence onto the ice.

"I think for a guy like him, he's almost going to be more comforting for us," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "He's probably going to feel more comfortable in there than we're really expecting and I think that'll put us at ease. It's not really trying to do too much. It's not trying to block every shot for him. You want him to see everything and take away those second chances. Those are the ones that fall on us.

"I grew up watching him practice on the weekends at South Mountain Arena [in New Jersey]. To see him here in the same locker room and be able to play with him is going to be a blast."

The Predators, tied for the Central Division lead in points (34) with the Blues, will give the proper attention to who the opponent in goal is.

"When a guy like Marty and his career comes back and enters the game … I guess the story will be written on the ice tonight as to the outcome," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "Certainly we've got a lot of respect for him."

What does Brodeur expect? He knows he will have a better idea at the conclusion of the game Thursday.

"Until I play a game, I'll have a better judge of where I'm at," Brodeur said. "It's a great opportunity for me tonight.

"There will be adjustments. I've never played beside … I think I played with [Barret Jackman] and [Jay Bouwmeester] a little bit in different competitions, but nothing like NHL hockey and nothing like Hitch's system also. For me, it's going to be patience, especially early on just to look at the routes the guys are taking defensively, because I like to play the puck. But if we're going to cause chaos all the time because there are two guys in the corner playing with the puck, I'm going to kind of have to adjust myself and watch a couple tapes and talk to some of the coaches about it. I don't want to change my game, but I think I'm going to need to adjust a little bit."

And for those Devils fans that will see something surreal Thursday that tune in, Brodeur again joked: "I think they're going to recognize me. I'm not going in hiding."

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