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Martin Brodeur tells Devils he is ready to play @NHLdotcom

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - Martin Brodeur is ready to play for the New Jersey Devils and all the four-time Vezina Trophy winner is waiting for is his first starting assignment since having elbow surgery roughly four months ago.

"I told them I am feeling ready," Brodeur said Monday after an hour-long practice. "It's up to them to see and look at me and feel comfortable. That's what it is, they have to feel comfortable having me there."

The Devils have three home games this week, facing Colorado on Thursday, Florida on Saturday and Philadelphia on Sunday.

Coach Brent Sutter refused to pick a date for Brodeur's return, saying he wants to see how the 36-year-old does at practice the next two days. Sutter also plans to talk with general manager Lou Lamoriello and his coaching staff before making a decision.

"It's a situation, and I've said it before, it's not training camp," Sutter said. "These last 20 games of the season, you are playing teams at a high level and you need your goaltending to be sharp and good."

Brodeur wants to play, though.

"Right now, four months is four months," Brodeur said. "I don't think one day will be a big deal. I'm really excited about coming back. If it is not Thursday, it will be soon enough. But I am working right now to get back in the nets as quick as possible."

Brodeur tore a biceps in his left elbow in a game against Atlanta on Nov. 1 and had surgery days later for the first major injury of his career.

In his absence, Scott Clemmensen and Kevin Weekes have done an outstanding job, combining for 32 wins to help New Jersey move into first place in the Atlantic Division.

However, neither has Brodeur's ability and New Jersey could use that for the final quarter of the regular season and the playoffs.

"Any time you get the best goalie to ever play back in the lineup, it's a good thing," forward Brian Rolston said. "Clemmer and Weeksie have done a great job all year but to have Marty back gives you a goalie that has won big games for sure, and that has won Stanley Cups and everything else, and has all the records."

Brodeur, who is on the verge of surpassing Patrick Roy's NHL record for career wins by a goaltender, admittedly is anxious to play again.

"I am human," Brodeur said. "It's a situation where I expect myself to do well, so you put extra pressure on yourself. I know that is not the way that I am usually. I usually go and roll with the punches. But right now I am not in that same situation that I am usually. I am definitely going to be a little nervous."

Brodeur has no concerns about his elbow. He has worked out the adhesions from his surgery during the past months and he noted that he does not even think about the elbow any more making glove saves.

"I just want to get back and get into the swing of things," said Brodeur, who has led the Devils to three Stanley Cups, the last in 2003.

Right wing Brendan Shanahan said that Brodeur can affect opposing players.

"I have played against him and he is certainly a guy when you are going out to play, he is one of the considerations you are thinking about," Shanahan said. "Very few goalies in the game have that sort of effect. They can change the way a shooter shoots."

The Devils had a disappointing 1-2 road trip last week. They were shut out by Florida and the Islanders and beat Tampa Bay in a shootout.

"We have to get our game back to where we want to be, where we can have success," Sutter said. "This past week I don't think anyone was happy with the way we played. We have to get it back."

Notes: Shanahan sat out practice with a swollen right foot. He had hurt the foot recently and was hit on it again by a shot in Tampa. ... D Paul Martin returned to practice after missing the past four games with an upper-body injury.

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