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No stranger to new coaches, Brodeur gives Sutter his stamp of approval

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Since catching on with the New Jersey Devils for good in 1993-94, Martin Brodeur has seen his share of coaches.

Eight different men to be exact, including a couple who have done it twice. There are few with better qualifications than Brodeur to evaluate a coaching performance and the future Hall of Famer says he likes what he's seen from Brent Sutter during the first week of training camp.

"I think Brent definitely took charge right from Day 1 in the way he wants our team to play," Brodeur said Wednesday on a conference call. "I think just how strong he is as far as the way he talks, how confident he is in himself reminds me a lot of Pat Burns or Jacques Lemaire.

"He's not a guy who's going to let the players dictate too much what's going on."

No one who played under Sutter with the Western Hockey League's Red Deer Rebels or the Canadian national junior team will be surprised to hear that.

But it might surprise some who were skeptical about Sutter's ability to bring a disciplined, no-nonsense approach to an NHL locker-room after being hired over the summer.

It might be his first job coaching professionals but it certainly hasn't looked that way to the Devils. Two Stanley Cup wins during a 17-year NHL playing career has earned Sutter the respect of his players.

"He walks in there and it doesn't look like he's impressed at all to be where he is," Brodeur said. "For us, it's just a guy that played the game ...

"As players that's what you like - a guy that lived the NHL life and lived what it takes to be a winner. Definitely with Brent we have that."

He's also got experience with him on the bench. Assistants Larry Robinson, John MacLean and Tommy Albelin are all former longtime NHL players.

It should be an interesting season for the team. In addition to the fact that it lost players like Brian Rafalski and Scott Gomez to free agency, New Jersey will play its first nine games of the season on the road.

After that, the Devils open the brand new Prudential Center in Newark on Oct. 27, when they host the Ottawa Senators.

Many think the team will struggle this season without core players like Rafalski and Gomez, but it's hard to count the Devils out because of Brodeur alone - let alone the young talent the team possesses.

Plus, the franchise has missed the playoffs just once in the last 18 years.

The 35-year-old Brodeur won his third Vezina Trophy last season after arguably putting up his best statistical year yet. He set an NHL record with 48 wins and posted a career-best 12 shutouts.

He also played 78 games, which is one short of Grant Fuhr's all-time record. The Devils replaced former backup Scott Clemmensen with a more experienced goalie in Kevin Weekes during the off-season.

So will Brodeur play as much this year?

"That's the million dollar question here in New Jersey," he said. "I've been asked every single day that question."

One things for certain - he's more than willing if that's what Sutter wants.

"For me, I've got to get myself geared that I'm going to play as many games as I played last season," said Brodeur. "After that, we'll see how the season goes. We'll see how the body goes and the success we're going to have.

"Mentally I don't change my approach at all."

The Montreal native claims that it's his love of the game that has kept him so motivated during his career.

It seems inevitable that he'll retire as the goalie with the most career shutouts (he's currently 11 behind Terry Sawchuck's 103) and wins (he's 57 shy of Patrick Roy's 551).

Brodeur has appeared in at least 70 games each of the past nine seasons and doesn't sound like a man who wants that streak - or his career - to end anytime soon.

"I'm just scared to miss it when I'm going to be done," said Brodeur. "That's why I'm enjoying every second that the Devils or any NHL team will give me the opportunity to play.

"I think that's what keeps me motivated - just the fun of the game. I think hockey's a great game, it's not work for me."

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