The New Jersey Devils, in desperate need of a spark, will get an enormous boost tonight in goal.
Future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur, who missed three weeks while battling an elbow injury, returns for the Devils tonight. His arrival couldn’t come any sooner, as the team looks to break their six game road skid against the Ottawa Senators tonight at Scotiabank Place.
Brodeur believes he won’t be rusty for tonight’s game.
“It’s like riding a bike,” Brodeur said. “I think you’re anxious to get back. I think that’s where it’s a lot different than when you’re playing all the time. When the games start, it’s hockey. We’re in middle of the season. I only missed three weeks or so. I’ve been playing hockey for a week and a half now, so it’s not a big deal.”
Johan Hedberg played well in Brodeur’s three week absence, posting a 3-4-0 record with a 1.95 GAA and .936 SV%. With the team still stuck in a rut, MacLean believes the return of Brodeur will help spark his players.
“Marty’s a world-class goaltender,” MacLean said. “Of course, he’s going to make a difference. He looks good in practice and I’m sure he’ll be ready to go. He’s a great goalie, so definitely he’s going to make a difference. We’re confident in his play and then we have to also play well in front of him and put some goals up there for him.”
Brodeur first missed significant time with injury during the 2008-2009 season. That year, the Devils’ goalie lost 50 games to a torn bicep, and many analysts thought the Devils would struggle. Instead, the team rallied around then backup Scott Clemmensen. New Jersey went on to take first place in the Atlantic Division.
This year, however, is considerably different. Brodeur’s return comes as the Devils near the brink of irrelevancy. The team, losers of six straight on the road, are 29th in the league with 18 points. The team also sits 14th in the Eastern Conference, 15 points out of a playoff spot. John MacLean’s job security is under intense scrutiny, and several offensive players are suffering through the worst slumps of their careers.
Brodeur admitted it was hard to watch the team struggle.
“It’s my team,” Brodeur said. “I’ve been playing here for 16 years now and I care a lot. If the team is not doing well, it’s one thing if you’re part of it, but when you’re sitting on the outside, you wish you could be there.”
The Devils get the opportunity to end their road woes tonight against the Senators. Ottawa brings a losing home record (7-8-1) into tonight’s contest, and has one of the worst goal differentials in the entire league (-25). The Sens lost last night to the New York Rangers, 5-3, at Scotiabank Place. Ottawa, who lead 3-2 after two periods, allowed three goals in the third period to lose the game.