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Brodeur will back up Hedberg against Rangers

by Mike G. Morreale

NEWARK, N.J. -- Goalie Martin Brodeur will be on the bench serving as the backup to Johan Hedberg on Tuesday when the New Jersey Devils host the New York Rangers at Prudential Center.

After being sidelined the past 11 games with a pinched nerve in his neck/upper back that was causing numbness in his shoulder and arm, the 40-year-old Brodeur said Tuesday he feels strong enough to return to the active roster.

"That's the plan now … I've been given the OK and that's the way we're going now," Brodeur said Tuesday, after his second straight practice with the team. "It's been fun the last two days being in the room and knowing what's going on a little bit. When you're injured, you're always on the side doing your own thing, so it's nice to be back."

The Devils on Tuesday activated Brodeur from injured reserve and assigned goalie Jeff Frazee to the team's American Hockey League affiliate in Albany.

Brodeur hasn't played since making 19 saves in a 3-2 victory against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 21. After a planned game off Feb. 23 against the Washington Capitals, Brodeur removed himself from the lineup during pre-game warm-ups prior to the Devils' home game Feb. 24 against the Winnipeg Jets.

The last time Brodeur wasn't the Devils' starter against the Rangers was Feb. 18, 2011, at Prudential Center, when he was recovering from a sprained MCL in his right knee. Hedberg stopped 16 shots in a 1-0 victory.

Brodeur said he expects to be in the starting lineup Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes in Raleigh.

He said he's been symptom-free for a week-and-a-half, staying away from any rigorous exercise activity for two weeks during his rehab.

"They did MRI's and they saw something was blocking the nerve root and could have been anything," Brodeur said. "It's something that sometimes takes up to two or three months to heal, but everyone is different. They could do surgery if it didn't get any better, but then you can't play for eight or nine weeks, so that wasn't an option. Not that they thought about doing it, but it was a last resort-type of tying if in three months it wasn't resolved."

For the season, Brodeur is 8-2-3 with a 2.27 goals-against average, .911 save percentage and one shutout.

Hedberg, meanwhile, will make his 13th straight start for the Devils on Tuesday. He has started every game in Brodeur's absence, going 3-7-2 with a 2.92 GAA and .860 save percentage in the past 12 games. In 16 games this season, the 39-year-old Hedberg is 5-8-3 with a 2.71 GAA, .888 save percentage and one shutout.

"I feel normal; no difference," Hedberg told "We've had a couple of days in between games, so it feels like we're all refreshed again."

Devils coach Pete DeBoer said forward Andrei Loktionov will miss his second straight game with an undisclosed injury. Loktionov did participate in thes morning skate Tuesday.

Just four healthy players skipped the optional skate Tuesday: Travis Zajac, Adam Henrique, Patrik Elias and captain Bryce Salvador.

The Devils are 8-2-2 against Atlantic Division foes this season, while the Rangers are 4-5-1. Despite outshooting their opponent in 10 straight games (3-5-2), the Devils have been outscored 30-19 over that stretch.

Here is the probable Devils' lineup for Tuesday against the Rangers:

Alexei Ponikarovsky - Adam Henrique - Ilya Kovalchuk

Harri Pesonen - Patrik Elias - David Clarkson

Ryan Carter - Travis Zajac - Steve Bernier

Krystofer Barch - Stephen Gionta - Tom Kostopoulos

Bryce Salvador - Marek Zidlicky

Andy Greene - Peter Harrold

Anton Volchenkov - Adam Larsson

Johan Hedberg

Martin Brodeur

Scratched: Mark Fayne

Injured: Dainius Zubrus (left wrist), Andrei Loktionov (undisclosed), Henrik Tallinder (lower body)

Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mikemorrealeNHL

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