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Brodeur skates with Blues, hopes to sign contract

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- Martin Brodeur wants to go out on his terms.

The likely Hall of Fame goalie, who spent the past 21 seasons with the New Jersey Devils, isn't ready to hang up the pads and paddle yet.

Brodeur, 42, stepped onto the ice Friday for the first time in his NHL career wearing something other than a Devils logo. He took part in the morning skate with the St. Louis Blues, who will face the Edmonton Oilers on Friday.

Brodeur, who leads the NHL in wins (688), games played (1,259) and shutouts (124), joined the Blues on a tryout basis with the hopes of landing a contract within the next week or so.


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"It was good. It was fun to get back out there for sure," Brodeur said. "It's been a while. It was a good tempo for me. I know it's only a morning skate … can't wait to see Monday.

"Everything's new. Everybody's kind of looking at me a little bit. That's going to phase out pretty quick."

Blues general manager Doug Armstrong called Brodeur's agent, Pat Brisson, on Tuesday after the Blues' 3-2 shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators, a game when starting goalie Brian Elliott sustained a lower-body injury. Elliott is on injured reserve and is listed as week-to-week.

"He's going to practice with us for the better part of a week and then I would say we'll make a determination," Armstrong said of Brodeur. "He'll find out where he's at and we'll have a chance to work with him and make a decision on whether we'll move forward with a contract or not.

"Obviously this all came to pass with the injury to Brian Elliott. … After talking with our doctors and with our training staff, he's going to be out week to week. When you go week-to-week, we're talking at least two, so it made us move to the next phase."

Brodeur has been skating with another NHL player looking for work, Scott Gomez, in New Jersey in hopes of landing a contract after the Devils chose not to re-sign him this past summer and he became a free agent.

Patiently waiting out an opportunity, Brodeur said he got the call from a team he had at the top of his list.

"I think for me, looking at teams, it was the most similar what I'm used to, what I've played throughout my career in New Jersey," Brodeur said of St. Louis. "St. Louis was one of the teams that was really interesting for me, especially with [Blues coach Ken Hitchcock] being the coach and being familiar with him was something that was important. The opportunity wasn't there in the summer, wasn't there early, wasn't there three days ago. It just happened a couple days ago. I'm definitely looking forward to this challenge and see where that's going to bring us. … There were some teams that called, but this was really at the top of my list."

Brodeur is coming off a season when he was 19-14-6 with a 2.51 goals-against average and .901 save percentage, low numbers by his career marks (2.24 GAA, .912 save percentage).

The Devils made their decision to move forward with Cory Schneider and Brodeur was faced with searching for work elsewhere if he wanted to continue his career.

"It was a tough year last year for me," Brodeur said. "I felt really good playing the games but didn't get really the chance to play the way I'm used to playing in New Jersey, and rightfully so with Cory Schneider being there. They needed to put him in some games and lock him into a long-term contract. For me, it was important to get out of the way.

"The Devils have been really good to me and they'll be good to me in the future also. For me to move on and get another opportunity with a team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup was one of my goals. Today's the first day of hopefully something good."

Hitchcock has spent three Winter Olympics with Brodeur as well as the 2004 World Cup of Hockey. The familiarity makes it a perfect fit if the Blues choose to move forward with a contract.

"He looks good," Hitchcock said of Brodeur. "We'll get a better test on Monday and Tuesday when we put him in a full practice. Eddie Belfour played 30 in a row at the same age. It's more what Marty's standard is. We'll get a good read on that.

"I think for elite players, it's how they feel after the competition. That's usually the drive on them. … This is really Marty's call, Marty's standard. To be honest with you, as a goalie on his worst day, he's awfully good. We'll see how he feels physically after we put him through the grind that you get in game-like situations. On Monday and Tuesday, we'll put him into a lot of zone stuff, a lot of stuff where he's going to have to fight through traffic. We'll put him in some hard situations and see how he feels throughout the day."

And if the Blues offer Brodeur a contract, he won't just be a mentor for young goalies Jake Allen, who will be the starter for the immediate future, and Jordan Binnington, who was recalled from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League.

"I don't need to lean on him," Hitchcock said of Brodeur. "I just need to play him. If he says I'm good to go, and we need games … [Elliott] is going to be out, and if he says I can play, I'm putting him in … bottom line."

Brodeur is 12 wins shy of 700 in his career, a milestone he wouldn't mind accomplishing.

"I've been fortunate to have teams with a lot of success," Brodeur said. "That number is pretty high. Seven hundred is just a round number, but it's not too far. It would be fun to get it, but if it doesn't happen, I'd like to get as close as possible and this team will give me a chance if I make the team here."

The thought of playing in another jersey crossed Brodeur's mind too. But if Wayne Gretzky could change teams and Ray Bourque, to name a few, he's up to the task as long as he feels he can compete.

"I thought about that a lot," Brodeur said. "That's one of the things I appreciate about Ken Daneyko when he was in New Jersey and played his whole career. I put a lot of stock into that to stay in New Jersey. I sacrificed, I don't want to say money, but time and maybe in free agency, I kind of wanted to stay. I believed in the organization that we were really competitive.

"But things have changed the last few years in New Jersey, there's no doubt even though two years ago we were in the Stanley Cup Final. But with the way it happened for me the last two seasons was an empty feeling for me. The only other way to really enjoy myself was to go outside the box a little bit, and I think experience-wise for what I want to do in the future, it's kind of nice to get a look at a different organization.

"Let's put it this way: It's a lot different here than it is in New Jersey … and I've been here for two hours," Brodeur said, laughing.

The Blues will leave it up to Brodeur to tell them if he can still compete at the level necessary.

"It's like anything. It's timing for a goalie," Brodeur said. "I've played the game for a long time; I know how to play. I know how to get by out there. There's no doubt about that. I've got enough experience, but the fact is the game is fast. It's a different conference; I've got to start learning it, some of the players. I haven't seen them much. These are all things on me to get myself ready when and if it happens."

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