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Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur ready to return after shoulder injury

NEWARK, N.J. - Martin Brodeur gave himself a clean bill of health Tuesday.

The New Jersey goalie suffered a bruised shoulder three weeks ago and could play Wednesday when the Devils face the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"I felt real good today and if they need me tomorrow, I'll be ready," Brodeur said. "It's the hardest I've gone as far as reaction and competing and I was fine."

Devils coach Pete DeBoer would not say whether Brodeur, 39, would start or if he'll continue to lean on reserve Johan Hedberg for a seventh straight game.

"We have to get medical clearance first," said DeBoer, adding it would be up to Brodeur when he would return to the lineup. "We'll talk to the trainers first."

However, DeBoer realized that having the 10-time all-star back on the ice would be a boost to his squad. Brodeur holds most of the NHL's records for goaltenders, including wins, shutouts and games played

"Sure, it gives you a lift," DeBoer said. "He's probably the best goalkeeper of all time.

"He would give us a lift on the ice and in the dressing room. Just having him with us on the road recently was a positive."

Brodeur told goaltending coach Chris Terreri, his former teammate, he was fine after practice. He planned on speaking with DeBoer sometime Tuesday.

"It's up to them to make the right decision," Brodeur said. "I don't think playing back-to-back games (the Devils face the Flyers in Philadelphia on Thursday) should matter.

"I was able to push it to the extent where I don't have to worry about it. I felt like I did when I got hurt."

Brodeur hurt his right shoulder when he went down to the ice to make a save against the Los Angeles Kings on Oct. 13. He has missed the last six games, a span in which Hedberg has gone 3-3.

Brodeur underwent extensive therapy over the last three weeks and began to skate again when the Devils were on the road.

"Being on the road was a big benefit to me, to keep up with it," Brodeur said. "It's been a lot for me to miss the games and being away from the team, but it was nice to be back and be part of the team."

Brodeur fully realizes the injury is a sign of aging. He's endured three injuries (groin, torn bicep muscle that required surgery, now the shoulder) over the last four years, missing significant time.

"It's different for me," Brodeur said. "I was fortunate for a lot of years to stay healthy and play with no major issues.

"I've endured a lot of wear and tear playing at a high level. It's bound to happen to everyone. It is what it is. Someday, I won't be able to play anymore. I know that. I wouldn't change anything that I did in my prime. We did a lot of great things."

Brodeur is grateful to have a proven backup in Hedberg, who is 4-3-1 with a 2.28 goals-against average.

"It's important to have a solid goalie tandem," Brodeur said. "I'm not coming back because the team needs.

"I'm coming back because I feel good and I want to play. I know I'm not going to play the same amount of games I used to play. I know I've been getting injured lately, but when I'm healthy, I'm going to be out there."

DeBoer welcomed Brodeur's return but addressed other key issues.

"It's nice to have him back," he said, "but he can't score goals for us or play the point in the power play."

Patrik Elias, who leads the Devils in scoring with only eight points (four goals, four assists) in nine games, went down hard in practice after colliding with Anton Volchenkov.

"My life flashed before my eyes with what we've dealt with already," DeBoer said. "It was not a sight I wanted to see."

Elias picked himself up after a brief moment and said he was fine.

"I had a little problem with my ankle," Elias said. "It's just a little bruise. We all have to get back on track and take advantage of our chances.

"We're not going to win too many games with just one goal. I'd be concerned if we weren't getting scoring chances. But once we get our chances, we have to connect. We have to relax a little. We're too antsy and too nervous. We have to let it come to us."


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