Brodeur out, Luongo in for Team Canada

Goaltender Martin Brodeur has taken himself out of Saturday's do-or-die semifinal game against the Czech Republic (CBC, 6:30 pm EST) at the World Cup of Hockey.

Nursing a sprained left wrist, the New Jersey Devils goalie told reporters Friday that he expected to play against the Czechs, but he didn't participate in Saturday morning's pre-game skate.

He ruled himself unfit shortly before Saturday's contest. The goaltending duties now fall to Florida Panthers netminder Roberto Luongo. Montreal Canadiens goalie Jose Theodore will serve as Luongo's backup.

"Right now I don't think it's fair to Team Canada to jeopardize their chances of advancing just because I want to be in there," Brodeur said.

"I wouldn't be 100 per cent in there tonight. The calibre of guys that we have behind me makes me feel better about taking a couple of extra days to be ready for another game if there is one."

"I think [Brodeur] is the best goaltender in the tournament so [his absence] is significant, but I think Roberto Luongo can get the job done," CBC World Cup analyst Brian Burke told Sports Online.

"I think he's an outstanding young player that hasn't got the credit he is due because of where he plays. He doesn't play in a big market and he's not on a good team, but the fact is he is a quality player."

"Obviously it looks very difficult for Marty to play tonight," said Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky.

"When you get in a tournament like this there's no sense playing at 80 per cent or 85 per cent when you've got a guy like Luongo or Theodore that can step in and they're healthy and they're excited to be here."

Brodeur tested his injured left forearm in practice on Friday but didn't skate with the team Saturday morning.

"I woke up this morning and there wasn't much improvement," Brodeur said. "I'd love to be able to say something else but it just doesn't feel good enough for me even to go out in practice this morning.

"Hopefully we'll get through this big test tonight and I'll be able to be part of it again later in the week for the bigger game."

Brodeur was apparently injured during Canada's 5-0 win over Slovakia on Wednesday. His arm swelled up overnight, which had some in the Canadian camp fearing a break.

Brodeur skipped practice Thursday and had medical test on the arm. The test came back negative, according to reports.

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL's top goalie and a gold-medal winner at the Salt Lake City Olympics, Brodeur has probably been the best player on a Canadian World Cup team littered with stars.

"He almost gives you an unfair advantage," said teammate Shane Doan when asked about Brodeur.

"It's a big edge," added Canadian captain Mario Lemieux.

Brodeur has allowed just three goals in Canada's four games. He boasts a 0.75 goals-against average and .970 save percentage.

"If I feel I can't play at the top level, then we have two guys who can do the job," said Brodeur.

Like Brodeur, Luongo was a standout last season. The 25-year-old finished second to Brodeur in voting for the Vezina Trophy.

"We know Roberto Luongo can do the job, that's why we picked him," said Gretzky.

"We picked him for a specific reason, he's played well at the world championships, he's got a great record over there. And he's a very capable No. 1 guy."

Luongo is also familiar with international play. He led Canada to gold medals at the world championships in 2003 and 2004. Luongo also backstopped the Canadian junior team to a silver medal at the 1999 worlds.

At 2003 worlds, Luongo stepped in and played brilliantly when starter Sean Burke was injured in the semifinal game. In the gold-medal game, Luongo stopped 37 of 39 shots he faced, including 12 in overtime, to lead Canada to the title.

"The last few weeks, all I've been doing is getting myself ready in case I would be called upon," Luongo said after Saturday monring's pre-game. "I've been through this before at the world championships.

"It's not something that's new to me."

"The fact that both guys got to play in exhibition was a really good thing so that they could get ready for a situation like this," said Brodeur. "I'm really happy with the way Team Canada managed their goaltending just in case something like this would happen."

Brodeur said he hopes to be back for Tuesday's final against Finland should Canada beat the Czechs on Saturday night.

"Definitely Tuesday's game is what I'm planning on for sure although I don't know how it's going to react," he said. "I'm pretty new at being out of the lineup because of an injury. So I don't know how to assess how it feels and what the future will bring."

with files from Canadian Press