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Clemmensen odd-man out with Brodeur's return

by Dan Rosen
NEWARK -- Everyone knew a domino was going to have to fall, but nobody on the New Jersey Devils' roster had a clue what was going to happen when they woke up Wednesday morning.

As the Devils filed into their practice dressing room at the Prudential Center, they noticed something -- rather, someone -- was missing.

Where was Scott Clemmensen, the goalie who backstopped them to 25 wins this season, who had eased the blow of losing Martin Brodeur with his surprisingly effective play?

"This morning when I came in I noticed his gear was gone," goalie Kevin Weekes said.

So was Clemmensen, who was en route to Lowell, Mass., where the Devils' American Hockey League affiliate plays.

When Martin Brodeur first was injured, Clemmensen was re-called on an emergency basis Nov. 3, meaning he could be sent down at any time without having to clear waivers.

Wednesday was that time because the Devils needed to activate Brodeur off injured reserve, and General Manager Lou Lamoriello did not want to carry three goalies on the roster. Since Weekes would have to clear waivers to go to the AHL, Clemmensen was the one who had to go.

"I had a long conversation with Scotty," Lamoriello said. "He certainly understands. In saying that, the job that he did was incredible while he was here. He knows and we know what he's capable of doing, and he's certainly made a lot of people aware of what he can do."

Weekes was supposed to be the guy to take over for Brodeur, but Clemmensen was given an opportunity and excelled, going 25-13-1 with a 2.39 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage in 40 games.

It's safe to say that without Clemmensen, the Devils would not be in the position they are right now -- first in the Atlantic Division and third in the Eastern Conference.

Of course, that matters little when business takes precedent and a Hall of Fame goalie is ready to go.

"He was called upon to do a job and he exceeded everybody's expectations," said Brodeur, who has missed the last 50 games. "Definitely you feel for a guy like that, that he has to go back, but that's what he signed up to do earlier this season. It's unfortunate. Hockey has the good things and the bad things about it. For our team to be where it is right now has a lot to do with how he played and how he conducted himself."

While the players feel sorry for Clemmensen, they were trying to find the silver lining in all of the day's transactions.

For one, Brodeur is back and that's good news. He will continue his assault on the record books now as the Devils head into the stretch run.

"Our goaltending has done a great job, and yet we know the type of goalie we are getting back now, too," coach Brent Sutter said in praising Clemmensen and Weekes. "It's like making a trade at this time of the season and not having to give up anything."

Secondly, Clemmensen, who couldn't sniff a good opportunity in his previous six professional seasons -- he had just eight wins in only 28 NHL games since turning pro at the start of the 2001-02 season -- has proven he's fully capable of being an NHL goalie -- and a good one, at that.

"He did a great job and hopefully that provides a springboard for himself going forward that recycles him back into the League because he's obviously shown he can play," Weekes said. "As any athlete will tell you the main thing is having an opportunity, that platform to prove yourself. He certainly had that and he did a great job."

"I had a long conversation with Scotty. He certainly understands. In saying that, the job that he did was incredible while he was here. He knows and we know what he's capable of doing, and he's certainly made a lot of people aware of what he can do."
-- Lou Lamoriello

Added Brodeur: "Definitely, for him, I'm sure it's really disappointing, but he got a great chance to prove what he was able to do not just for the Devils, but the entire League. I think he made his point and I wish him luck. I don't know what the future will bring. You never know, coming back here or going somewhere else, but he definitely made an impact on this club."

One thing that needs to be remembered is it's not as if Clemmensen is gone forever. He could return sometime after the March 4 trade deadline when NHL clubs have four recalls at their disposal.

Clemmensen would not have to clear waivers to come back at that point, but Lamoriello made it pretty clear that he does not want to have three goalies in practices or morning skates, so the likelihood of that is slim unless Weekes is dealt before the deadline.

"When you look at three goaltenders, you cannot give them enough ice time to do the things that are necessary to be ready to play," Lamoriello said. "That would have been unfair to the coaches had that decision been made."

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