Thanks to Tom Gulitti's Fire and Ice Blog, it appears the return of Martin Brodeur is not all that far off. It appears Brodeur has begun not only skating, but is even facing shots from some of the staff (head coach Brent Sutter, assistant coach John MacLean, etc.) and the scratches (Jay Pandolfo).
For a variety of different reasons, this season is setting up vastly different for the New Jersey Devils. There is no bigger reason than the fact that Martin Brodeur has missed so many games between the pipes for New Jersey.
For the last 10 seasons, Brodeur has played at least 70 games in net, and has averaged 73 games played over the last 12 seasons. It has been that durability that has brought Brodeur within seven wins of the all-time record, currently held by Patrick Roy.
In recent seasons, Brodeur and the Devils have not had the same type of playoff success they had earlier this decade. A big reason for this has been the thought that perhaps Brodeur has been overworked a bit, and has shown signs of fatigue by the time the team has made it to the playoffs.
This year, with only 10 games played thus far, it does not appear that this will be the case.
This begs the question: How will the Devils fare in the playoffs with a fresh Martin Brodeur? Another obvious question is: Will Marty return to normal health?
With this type of injury, it is expected that Brodeur will return to his normal form. Obviously, there is no way to know for sure, but let's assume for the moment that he will return, perhaps have a little rust to work through, and then return close to form.
If that were to happen, the Devils should then become a legitimate contender for their fourth Stanley Cup Championship. The team has shown a lot of depth this year, and has had four lines capable of providing offense.
Two lines in particular have provided big-time scoring. Zach Parise has taken his game to an All-Star level, while Patrik Elias has returned to his former All-Star level of play. Both players have been in the top 10 to 15 scorers in all of the NHL.
The rumored return for Brodeur is the Feb. 26 game against the Colorado Avalanche. Perhaps that will end up being the first step in a potential long-stretch run, which could eventually give Marty his fourth opportunity to lift Lord Stanley.
Obviously, it's a little too early to tell just yet, but it will definitely be something the Devils and their fans will be watching closely in the weeks ahead, and especially when the calendar turns to April for the playoffs.
Based on recent history, the Devils would love to see Brian Gionta continue to score. After all, the team is 11-0-1 in games where Gionta has scored a goal. Other successful records include those of Jamie Langenbruner (10-1-1), Travis Zajac (13-2-0), Brian Rolston (8-1-0), and Johnny Oduya/Jay Pandolfo (4-0-0).
The Devils face the New York Rangers Monday night at the "Rock" in their fifth installment of the season. With the rumored pending return of Sean Avery to the New York Rangers, and Brodeur's return to the Devils, will we see a return of the Brodeur vs. Avery conflict? Only time will tell.