NEWARK, N.J. – Martin Brodeur is again the New Jersey Devils’ No. 1 goaltender. Coach Pete DeBoer isn’t saying how long that will last, nor does he care.
DeBoer has said all season the Devils have two No. 1 goaltenders in Brodeur and Cory Schneider, and the hotter guy would play.
That’s the 41-year-old Brodeur right now. The NHL’s career leader in wins for goaltenders has won his last four starts to help the Devils get within two points of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference heading into Thursday’s games.
The run comes after a monthlong span—which included the Olympic break—where Brodeur did not start a game because Schnieder was playing so well. It marked the first time in 20 years with the Devils that the three-time Vezina Trophy winner as the league’s top goaltender was relegated to a backup for an extended period.
The Devils are 5-2 since play resumed after the break, and Brodeur has won all four of his starts. Schneider is 1-2, losing his last two starts, including a “train wreck” in a 7-4 loss in Detroit.
“It’s been good,” Brodeur said Thursday of his recent play. “I am happy about the playing time and being able to win and contribute to the team.”.
Brodeur wasn’t happy sitting, and it sparked speculation he would be shipped somewhere last week at the trade deadline.
“It was hard because I don’t think my game got so bad that I could not get the trust of the coach,” said Brodeur, who has a 17-11-4 record with a 2.49 goals against average this season. “But he (Schneider) was playing so well, and we needed to win, he felt that was the way to go. Somebody had to pay a price and I was the one. It was not a fun situation, probably the hardest to go through in my career, especially when you are healthy.”
Brodeur’s trip to the bench followed a bad performance against the Rangers in the 7-3 outdoor loss at Yankee Stadium.
During his career, Brodeur shrugged off bad performances by playing the next game. This time, he had to wait a month to play again.
With the Devils playing on consecutive days in Florida on Friday and Saturday, the goaltenders will each get a start. Schneider, who has a 12-13-9 record with a 2.07 GGA in his first season in New Jersey, will play against the Panthers on Friday night. Brodeur will face the Lightning on Saturday.
“It gives Marty an extra day of rest,” DeBoer said. “I think Marty’s record on three days’ rest as opposed to two days’ rest is good. And we want to get Cory back in there. I didn’t want Cory to sit very long. He’s capable of getting on a roll for us, too.”
Schneider, who will be making his first start in a week, has used the time off to work on his game.
“I have felt really good in practice and haven’t thought about my last game (Detroit) at all,” said Schneider, who was acquired in a draft-day deal with Vancouver in June. “I am in a good state of mind and excited to go play.”
The bottom line for both goaltenders is the need to win with 16 games left in the regular season.
“We’re definitely in a better position than we were two weeks ago,” Brodeur said. “It’s so hard with teams still in front of you and teams still behind you. You kill yourself looking at the possibilities. You just have to do your thing and win your games, and you hope somebody is going to stumble. At the end of the day we are going to need some help. Right now we have to help ourselves.”
After this weekend, the Devils will have 10 of their 14 games at the Prudential Center, where they are 16-8-7.
“This is going to be a sprint right to the finish line and I think that’s the reality,” DeBoer said. “I don’t think there is going to be a ton of separation. The good news is we have given ourselves a chance to be in that race until the finish line.”