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Brodeur ready for his big night

by John Kreiser
Martin Brodeur has a date with history on Saturday, when he can equal Patrick Roy's NHL record of 551 regular-season victories. Perhaps it's a good thing that the potential record-tying game is against the Montreal Canadiens rather than the Vancouver Canucks.

Brodeur, a Montreal native, has 34 career victories against the team he grew up watching -- more than he's had against any non-division rival. In contrast, the Canucks are the only team that has a winning record against the future Hall of Famer -- Brodeur is only 6-9-0 lifetime against Vancouver. The only other team against which Brodeur doesn't have a winning regular-season record is Detroit; he's 7-7-1, though he's also 4-0 against the Wings in the playoffs, having been in goal for the Devils' sweep of the 1995 Final.

Since he faces division rivals more than other opponents, it's not surprising that Brodeur's three highest win totals have come against the Philadelphia Flyers, New York Islanders and New York Rangers. He has 43 victories over the Flyers, the most against any opposing team, followed by the Islanders (41) and Rangers (39). The Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins (34 wins) both have beaten Brodeur 23 times in regulation, the most of any opponent.

Brodeur has always excelled against the Habs. At 34-14-5, they are one of only three teams against which he's 20 games over .500 (Philadelphia and Florida are the others). He also has eight shutouts against the Canadiens, more than he's had against any team other than the Islanders (10) and Flyers (9), both of whom have faced him far more often. His 1.80 goals-against average is his best against any team; his 2.76 GAA against the Canucks is his worst.

Rookie whiz --
Columbus goaltender Steve Mason may never match Brodeur's records, but he's having a rookie season to remember. Mason leads the NHL with nine shutouts after blanking Boston 2-0 on Tuesday. That's the most of any rookie goaltender since Chicago's Tony Esposito had 15 in 1969-70, his first NHL season -- still the most by any first-year netminder. The only other rookies to reach double figures in their first NHL seasons were Hall of Famers Terry Sawchuk (11 in 1950-51) and Glenn Hall (12 in 1955-56) -- both with Detroit.


Mason might shatter Esposito's record if he could play more often against Eastern Conference teams. He improved to 11-1-0 with a 4-3 shootout victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday, and six of those wins have been shutouts.

Mason also has three wins against Detroit in four decisions this season, making him the first rookie to beat the Wings three times since Chicago's Ed Belfour went 3-3-1 against the 1990-91 team that went 34-38-8.

Road worrier -- Montreal's Carey Price was one of the NHL's most successful goaltenders away from home during the first three months of the season, going 9-3-1 with a 2.48 goals-against average in 13 starts away from the Bell Centre in the 2008 portion of the schedule.

But that success hasn't carried over into the new year. Price lost his first nine road decisions (one in overtime) in 2009 before winning 3-1 at Dallas on March 8.

No blanks -- The Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks continued one of the NHL's longest-running streaks when the Bruins won 5-3 at 5-3 win on March 7. Neither team has won via shutout in Boston since 1978 -- a span of 33 games.

The Hawks have gone even longer without a shutout of the Bruins. The last one came on Oct. 16, 1974, when they beat Boston 4-0 at Chicago Stadium. The Blackhawks haven't had a shutout at Boston in almost 40 years -- the last one was a 1-0 victory on Jan. 17, 1970.

Fishing for OT goals -- It's been a tough season for Ottawa's Mike Fisher, whose 11 goals and 27 points represent a lot less offensive production than the Senators had expected. The only time he's shown this season has been in overtime.

Ottawa has three OT goals this season, and Fisher has been involved in all three of them. His overtime goal on Tuesday against Tampa Bay was his second of the season, and he set up Ottawa's other OT winner. Fisher also had a goal and an assist in OT last season, when the Senators scored three times in the extra period.

Nifty 50 -- Florida goaltender Tomas Vokoun must thrive on a big workload. Vokoun got a point for the Panthers on Tuesday when he survived a 50-shot barrage in a 4-3 shootout loss at Pittsburgh. It was the third time this season he's faced 50 or more shots -- no other goaltender in the League has faced more than one 50-shot night -- and the first time he didn't win. He beat San Jose 4-3 on Oct. 24 despite facing 50 shots and defeated Tampa Bay 4-3 in a shootout on Nov. 18 after facing 52 shots through 65 minutes.

Ready, aim, fire -- For the second time in a month, the Detroit Red Wings made the first period a nightmare for an opposing goaltender. The Wings set a season-high on Thursday night by taking 28 shots on goal in the first period against Calgary; Flames' goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff stopped 26 of them, keeping the Flames in the game and allowing them to rally for a 6-5 shootout victory. Just 29 days earlier, on Feb. 10, the Wings had 27 shots in the first period of a 5-3 victory over Nashville.

The Wings outshot Calgary 28-4 in that first period; the 24-shot differential was the highest for any team in any period this season.

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