There's a distinct possibility New Jersey Devils
goalie Martin Brodeur
could equal the NHL record for career victories on Saturday in the city of the team he grew up idolizing -- Montreal.
And the player that he watched and studied there as a youngster -- Patrick Roy
-- will be rooting for him.
"He deserves it," Roy told Steve Politi of The (Newark) Star-Ledger. "I always knew Martin was going to do it, and I'm happy for him. It really is amazing that he could play so many games year after year."
Brodeur is currently sitting on 548 career triumphs, just three shy of Roy's all-time mark of 551. He's also three shutouts short of Terry Sawchuk
's NHL standard of 103. The Devils will host the Calgary Flames
Tuesday and the Phoenix Coyotes
Thursday before traveling to Bell Centre two days later for a game that will be showcased on Hockey Night in Canada.
Roy said he would be in attendance if Brodeur was on the verge of equaling the mark he established over an 18-season career. Brodeur, who missed 50 games this season following surgery to repair a torn tendon in his left biceps, is currently in his 15th season in New Jersey.
The fact Brodeur has benefited somewhat from the recent rule changes -- most notably the addition of shootouts in 2005 -- doesn't seem to faze Roy.
"He still had to win those games," Roy told Politi. "He won them, and that's all that matters. I know how tough it is to win hockey games."
Roy, who is currently the co-owner, general manager and head coach of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, admits he knew Brodeur was the one player capable of surpassing his League standard.
"I knew if I wanted to protect, I had to play four more years, and I didn't have that in my body any more," he said. "You don't play to protect your records. Records are there to help you produce better and add some objectives, but the main goal will always be the same: winning Stanley Cups."
Brodeur, who needs one more Cup to equal the four garnered by Roy, couldn't agree more.
"I'm concentrating on getting my game to the level where it needs to be when the playoffs come," Brodeur said. "It's a nice start for me. I didn't have much expectations for the way I'd come back from the injury. But now, being on the eve of (the records), it will be in the back of my mind. Hopefully we'll do it quickly and move on."
With the exception of the one hiccup Saturday in a 7-3 loss to the Islanders, the 36-year-old Brodeur has looked extremely sharp since his return from the injury. He made 24 saves in a shutout over Colorado on Feb. 26, stopped 15 shots in a victory over Florida on Feb. 28, shut out the Flyers on 27 saves on March 1 and turned away 30 pucks in a triumph over Toronto on March 3.
Durability is something that has kept Brodeur on the fast track to Roy's victory record. Prior to this season, he had missed just 12 games the previous 14 seasons. He's played 70-plus games in each of the last 10 campaigns.
"I don't know if after the career Marty has had and the success he has had, whether with the Devils or on the international stage if we should be surprised with anything he's accomplished," Devils President/CEO/General Manager Lou Lamoriello recently told Commissioner Gary Bettman on The NHL Hour. "To be able to come back from this injury took a lot of work on his part since he wasn't able to do anything for a long period of time. It was just good to see Marty and the team rewarded for all the hard work. When he made his return, we were never concerned about his arm and now he seems to be right where he was before the injury."
"He deserves it. I always knew Martin was going to do it, and I'm happy for him. It really is amazing that he could play so many games year after year."
-- Patrick Roy on Martin Brodeur
Perhaps Brodeur's time off during his strenuous rehabilitation stint will benefit him and the Devils during their stretch run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"You have to take every positive you can from an injury," Brodeur said. "Sometimes it's hard to have them, but definitely not playing as many games, we'll see what kind of success that translates to in the playoffs. The last time I didn't play a lot was '95 when we had a lockout. It was different reasons, but definitely that was a pretty good year for us."
Roy respects the way Brodeur has approached the record and his preparation.
"I like his approach," he said. "I remember in the playoffs, he once said he was facing more critics than shots. I thought it was a nice way to deal with the pressure. From the outside watching him, he almost makes it look easy, but I know how tough it is."
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.