Will the return of Martin Brodeur in net this evening reignite the New Jersey Devils?
The 40-year-old future Hall of Fame goaltender made his last start for the Devils exactly one month ago today against the Washington Capitals. Three days later, he would pull himself from warm-ups with a sore back.
After three weeks of speculation, it was revealed that the back issue was actually a pinched nerve in his upper back/neck and it was something the net minder had been playing with for a couple of weeks.
“For whatever reason, it doesn’t seem like that long,” Brodeur said when addressing the media yesterday. “I know it’s been a lot of games. I’m just excited to be back.”
His absence, while only a month, seemed like a season. At that point, the Devils were at the top of the Eastern Conference and have now slipped to ninth. They are actually tied with the eighth place New York Rangers, but the Blueshirts have beaten the Devils twice this season.
The team has gone 3-8-2 while Brodeur has been recovering and seemed to have lost their spark as well as the ability to score.
According to Brodeur, he is 100 percent healed and ready to go, but is he prepared to handle the pressure that inevitable comes with being superman?
“I don’t know if I should feel pressure,” Brodeur reasoned. “I’m just going to go out and play. It’s a game. They’re important, but that’s what you play hockey for. You have to take pride and not shy away from these types of situations. It shows what kind of player you are when you’re able to perform under these circumstances.”
His teammates are happy to have him back as well.
“He’s one of those players who can definitely control the game,” Devils’ captain Bryce Salvador said in an interview in The Star Ledger. “It’s nice having him back. By no means is that a knock against (Johan Hedberg). Marty is a presence in the net.”
The Carolina Hurricanes have also been without their No. 1 goaltender, Cam Ward. Ward will probably be sidelined for the remainder of the regular season with a knee injury.
Currently, the Hurricanes are in seventh place with 32 points. The same number as the Devils.
Dan Ellis took to the ice tonight for his third straight start against the goalie who holds the record for most career wins. It’s not the only record Brodeur holds, not by any means.
Before tonight’s game, Brodeur was tied with Ron Hextall for most career goals, two. Brodeur now owns that record, scoring his second regular season goal and the third in his career.
Just in case the offense was still stalled, Brodeur added some by putting the puck in the net.
Well, not exactly. He made the stop on a delayed penalty call on Marek Zidlicky. Hurricane forward Jordan Staal made a cross-ice pass which hit the boards and eventually found its way into their net. As the last Devil to touch the puck, Brodeur was credited with the goal.
For the Devils, it was nice to see a bounce finally go their way.
In addition to adding to the goal total, Brodeur didn’t show any signs of rust in the net, putting in a stellar performance.
Peter Harrold would score his second of the season after sitting for most of the month of February. Adam Henrique netted one as well. In the final minutes, Russian Andrei Loktionov would top off his return to the lineup from an undisclosed injury with a goal.
His return was a much needed lift for the Devils. Brodeur kept the Hurricanes off the score sheet for over two and a half periods before Jeff Skinner put one past him. He didn’t get the shutout or the game-winning goal, but he got the team what they desperately needed, a win and the two points that go with it.
Dawn Miller is a New Jersey Devils writer for www.RantSports.com. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/dawnsmiller, “Like” her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dawn-Miller/393662124056436 or add her to your network on Google.