|Having finally shaken off the effects of a concussion, goaltender Mike Brodeur is looking forward to better days ahead in the Senators organization (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
After all the weeks of uncertainty, the cloud has finally lifted in Mike Brodeur's world.
So much so that even a night spent watching from the bench provided reason to smile for the Calgary native, who backed up Brian Elliott during Sunday night's 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals at Scotiabank Place.
"It's been a long year," admitted Brodeur with a wry grin after the game.
Indeed it has. Brodeur entered the season with a new contract and hopes of further establishing himself within the Senators organization. Instead, he's endured months of misery since suffering a concussion back on Oct. 8, when the Binghamton Senators whipped the Adirondack Phantoms 5-1 in their American Hockey League season opener.
It wasn't until Saturday, when he backstopped the Elmira Jackals of the East Coast Hockey League to a 5-0 blanking of the Toledo Walleye, that the 27-year-old Brodeur finally felt comfortable between the pipes again.
"I tried playing a month and half prior to that, but it felt like I was in a black hole out there," said Brodeur. "It just didn't feel right. But (Saturday) night, I felt great. I felt like myself. I was seeing pucks and I was feeling pucks. It's all good now."
Brodeur certainly couldn't say that in the months and weeks that led up to Saturday's full-game test for Elmira, the Senators' ECHL affiliate.
"I went through 2-1/2, three months of just sitting at home, waiting for the headaches and dizziness to go away," he said. "I rushed myself a little bit coming back, which set me back a little bit more. Now I feel great and finally I can smile and my wife can smile because I'm not miserable around the house."
With Pascal Leclaire unavailable on Sunday because of a lower-body injury, the Senators summoned Brodeur to back up Elliott against the Caps. Brodeur was returned to Binghamton earlier today, but Ottawa head coach Cory Clouston knows it's important to have him ready to go if disaster strikes in his dressing room.
"I tried playing a month and half prior to that, but it felt like I was in a black hole out there. It just didn't feel right. But (Saturday) night, I felt great. I felt like myself. I was seeing pucks and I was feeling pucks. It's all good now." - Mike Brodeur
Like, for example, the two games Brodeur had to start last January, when Leclaire went down with a concussion of his own and Elliott was battling the flu. He won them both, igniting the 11-game winning streak that turned around the Senators' season.
"He's played only two games all year," Clouston said Sunday when asked about Brodeur's potential role with the big club this season. "He played one at the start of year, won that game and gave up a goal. He got a concussion and he's just back now.
"(Saturday) night was his first game back. It's only the East Coast league, but he did get a shutout. I think they were outshot 30-18 and they won 5-0. We need to get him on track so that if and when he need him (he's ready)."
For the time being, Brodeur's return is fortuitous for the B-Sens, who will be without Robin Lehner
for perhaps as many as five games while he suits up for Sweden at the 2011 IIFH World Junior Hockey Championship in Buffalo. The organization's top goaltending prospect blanked the Syracuse Crunch 7-0 on Friday night and backstopped Binghamton to a 3-2 victory over the Rochester Americans on Sunday.
Brodeur and Barry Brust, who's carried the majority of the goaltending load for the B-Sens so far this season, will share duties while Lehner is away. The Senators, meanwhile, expect Leclaire to be ready to at least dress as the backup Thursday night, when they face the Predators in Nashville (8 p.m., Sportsnet Sens, Team 1200).