Brodeur surprises himself with stellar return

New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur had doubts that he could quickly return to his future Hall of Fame form after missing 50 games from a torn left biceps injury.

Martin Brodeur is human after all.

The New Jersey Devils goaltender had doubts that he could quickly return to his future Hall of Fame form after missing 50 games from a torn left biceps injury. 

"My expectations weren't that big," Brodeur said in a recent conference call.

"I just wanted to go out and feel good and [have the game] be second nature to me again. It's been so long that I haven't played a game and I was a little worried about how I was going to feel in there. [The concern] was the level of play and where I was going to be at?"

All the unflappable Brodeur has done is re-establish his dominance in the New Jersey net, while continuing his assault on the NHL record book.

With his anticipated return on Feb. 26 against the Colorado Avalanche, Brodeur made 24 saves en route to a 4-0 shutout win.

After New Jersey disposed of Florida 7-2 in his next start, Brodeur secured his 100th career shutout following a 27-save performance and a 3-0 victory over divisional rival Philadelphia.

<script type="text/javascript" charset="utf-8" language="javascript" src="> <a href ="" >Who's the greatest?</a>  <br/> <span style="font-size:9px;"> (<a href =" ">  Online surveys</a>)</span></noscript>

<style type="text/css"> #PDI_container1452494 .pds-box { width:586px; font-family:Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; }

#PDI_container1452494 .pds-vote a { margin-left: 10px; padding: 0px; margin: 0px; display: block; font-size: 14px; font-weight: bold; border-bottom: none; border-top:none; color: #043C7B; }

#PDI_container1452494 .pds-answer { color:#333333; font-size:12px; font-weight:bold; padding-bottom: 20px; }

#PDI_container1452494 .pds-radiobutton { margin-top:8px; }

#PDI_container1452494 .pds-question-top { color:#333333; font-size:24px; font-weight:bold; padding:5px 5px 0; text-align:center; } </style>[/CUSTOM]

Closing in on Sawchuk

The shutout put Brodeur only three away from legendary netminder Terry Sawchuk, a record many viewed as untouchable before the Montreal native began his ascent.

The 36-year-old — 7-1-0 since his return — also earned his 551st win against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night to tie the all-time mark set by another Hall of Famer, Patrick Roy.

"After the first game it was pretty tough, but the second and third game I just felt natural in there," Brodeur admitted. "I felt that I belong in the games. The expectation for me was having fun again and I just wanted to follow what these guys have built all year long."

A model of consistency for more than a decade, Brodeur had to endure the most frustrating season of his stellar career. Aside from missing six games with a right knee injury in November of 2005, Brodeur had never been absent for a significant amount of time prior the start of his 14th season.

But he required surgery to repair the torn muscle in his left elbow on Nov. 6, forcing the durable Brodeur to recover from a major injury for the first time.

"The first month was really hard because I was in a cast so I didn't really do much," he said. "The second month was probably the toughest one because I was able to function a little bit, but was not allowed to work out or do anything."

Many expected the team to fold when the Devils' franchise player went down. With Brodeur on the mend, New Jersey was hoping backup Kevin Weekes would take over. To their surprise, the Devils received outstanding goaltending from an unlikely source.

Clemmensen kept Devils in top spot

Scott Clemmensen supplanted Weekes as the No. 1 goalie, going an impressive 25-13-1 with a 2.39 goals-against average, a .917 save percentage, along with a pair of shutouts in 40 games.

His terrific play allowed the Devils to remain in the first place in their Atlantic Division, and second overall in the Eastern Conference. Not bad for guy few knew even existed at the beginning of the season.

"I think he was definitely a great surprise to everybody," Brodeur said of Clemmensen, who was sent to the minors to make room for the top man. "Scott came in and it was a tough situation. [The team] pegged Kevin Weeks to take the workload and Clemmer got his chance to play and he played real well.

"That made a big difference in the way I was able to come back. I didn't have to worry about the position of my team [because] he took care of that, and I wish him the best moving forward."

As for the two records he will eventually break, Brodeur left no doubt which one he will cherish more.

"I think for me the most important one would be the wins," he said. "When you play hockey you play to win and when you win everybody wins — that's the bottom line. [With] shutouts, I think if you win enough you'll have shutouts. You don't get up in the morning and say, 'I want to shut them down.' You get up and say, 'I want to win this game.'

"I've been fortunate to play on good teams and that's the reason I'm approaching both records."