One week ago, the New Jersey Devils looked like one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. Behind the strong play of goaltender Martin Brodeur and a steady offense, the Devils were 10-3-4 and locked in a battle with the Pittsburgh Penguins for first place in the Atlantic Division. Now the team finds Brodeur sidelined with a back injury and backup goaltender Johan Hedberg unable to stop much of anything, suddenly putting their once-bright season in jeopardy. The Devils now own a 10-6-4 record and trail the Penguins in the standings by two points.
Hedberg has started three straight games and has lost them all. He gave up five goals to the Washington Capitals on Saturday, four goals to the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday and another three goals to the Jets on Thursday. His performance is so bad that the Devils have to be seriously considering letting Keith Kinkaid make his first NHL start, and reaffirming the notion that this team goes as Brodeur goes. Brodeur, now in his 19th season, has an 8-2-3 record with a 2.27 goals against average. He led the Devils to a Stanley Cup the last time a season was shortened because of a lockout and looked poised to do it again before his injury.
With the reports coming out of the New Jersey area today that Brodeur is not expected to be able to return to action on Monday (his first eligible day to come off injured reserve), it is time for Devils fans to be concerned. The team faces five games in an eight-day stretch, beginning with a Saturday tilt against the Buffalo Sabres. The Devils desperately need Brodeur back as soon as possible, because Hedberg just isn’t getting the job done.