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Devils in rare spot of relying on backup

by John Kreiser /
Martin Brodeur's long-term absence after this week's surgery has left the New Jersey Devils in uncharted and uncomfortable territory.

Brodeur became the Devils' No. 1 goaltender in 1994-95, when he played 40 times in New Jersey's 48 games. Since then, he's gone 515-280-119, a .629 winning percentage, while playing at least 67 games in every season.

This hasn't left much playing time for his backups — but maybe that's a good thing. Beginning in 1994-95, all New Jersey goaltenders not named Brodeur have a record of 54-60-15, a .477 winning percentage. Of the nine other goaltenders who've had decisions for the Devils since then, Chris Terreri is tops with 18 victories, five more than Mike Dunham. No one else has reached double figures.

The last of those nine is Kevin Weekes, who went 2-2-1 in five decisions for the Devils in 2007-08 and is likely to carry the load until Brodeur returns. That's not likely to make New Jersey fans feel very confident: Weekes is one of only three goaltenders to play 300 or more games with a career points percentage of less than .400. Weekes has never had a regular-season won-lost record of better than .500, and overall, he's 99-159-39, including Wednesday's 4-3 shootout win over Tampa Bay, for a percentage of .398, the lowest among goalies currently in the NHL and better only than Ron Low and Marc Denis among netminders with 300 or more appearances.

Weekes' start Monday night against Buffalo officially ended Brodeur's string of 56 consecutive starts (including five in the playoffs).

Easy one — Brodeur left Saturday's game with Atlanta due to injury just 6:38 into the second period — but that was long enough to earn his 544th career victory, seven behind NHL career leader Patrick Roy. It was Brodeur's ninth "incomplete" win, in which he did not play the entire game and his first since Nov. 20, 1999 against Ottawa, when Terreri replaced Brodeur for just over two minutes early in the third period. Weekes played more than half the game, but Brodeur was in when the goal that proved to be the game-winner was scored.

Rally caps, anyone? — If the first month of the season is any indication, multi-goal leads are less secure than ever.

Though the season's first 180 games (about 15 percent of the schedule), there were 25 games in which a team overcame a deficit of two or more goals to win the game. That's a big jump from 14 such games in the same time last season (though last year's group included one four-goal comeback, which hasn't happened this season).

Those 25 comebacks don't include games in which a team rallied and earned a point by losing in overtime or a shootout. There were two of these games (both from three-goal deficits) on back-to-back nights this week alone.

Carolina and Toronto are tops among all teams with three multi-goal comeback wins. The Hurricanes' third one came Sunday — when they spotted the Leafs a 3-1 lead before rallying for a 6-4 win.

Red's six-pack
— Most hockey fans today know Red Berenson as the longtime coach at the University of Michigan. But 40 years ago, he was the first star of the NHL's Expansion Era, and on Nov. 7, 1968, he set a record that still stands by becoming the only player to scored six goals in a road game.

Berenson scored once in the first period, a record-tying four times (in less than 10 minutes) in the second and once in the third in the St. Louis Blues' 8-0 victory at Philadelphia. He matched the post-1926 record for goals in a game set by Detroit's Syd Howe against the war-weakened Rangers in 1943.

In the 40 years since Berenson's big night, 28 players have had five goals in a game. But only one — Toronto's Darryl Sittler on Feb. 7, 1976 — matched Berenson's accomplishment with six (Sittler also set an NHL record that night with 10 points as the Leafs routed Boston).

Unwanted record — Barring a fluke injury, Phoenix center Olli Jokinen will set an NHL record on Saturday night — one that he'd just as soon not own. Jokinen will play his 735th regular-season game when the Florida Panthers come to the desert on Saturday night. That's the most for any player without taking part in at least one playoff game. He'll surpass the mark held by Guy Charron, who played for Montreal in 1969-70 (the one season from 1947-48 to 1994-95 in which the Habs failed to make the postseason), then toiled for Detroit, Kansas City and Washington. He finished his career with 530 points in 734 games — but no playoff appearances.

It's ironic that Jokinen will set the mark against Florida — he played 567 games in seven seasons for the Panthers before being dealt to Phoenix on Draft Night last June.

Not-so-shining Stars —The Dallas Stars have been one of the NHL's most consistent defensive teams in Dave Tippett's five-plus seasons as coach. But the early stages of this season have left Tippett shaking his head.

Dallas allowed five or more goals in losses at Chicago last Friday and Boston the next night. In all, the Stars have allowed five or more goals seven times in their first 12 games — just one less than the number of five-goal games they allowed in all of 2007-08. They joined the 2000-01 Tampa Bay Lightning and the 2005-06 Pittsburgh Penguins as the only teams in the past 15 years to give up five or more goals seven times in their first 12 games.

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