When Martin Brodeur went down with an elbow injury back in November, a lot of pundits thought it would pretty much doom the Devils' season and the team's playoff hopes were put on life support without the future Hall-of-Fame netminder in the crease for an extended period of time.
Didn't quite turn out to be the case.
Now, just seven wins short of Patrick Roy's all-time wins mark and with 22 games to play in the regular season, Brodeur confirmed after Devils practice today he will get his first start in over three months against Roy's old team, the Avalanche, Thursday night in Newark.
Sent down in the goaltending shuffle is Scott Clemmensen, who heads down to Lowell despite his tremendous stint as the Devils' temporary No. 1, posting a 25-13-1 record for a New Jersey team that holds an eight-point lead over Philadelphia in the Atlantic Division race.
Because Clemmensen was an emergency call-up back when Brodeur was injured against Atlanta, he doesn't have to be exposed to waivers to be returned to the AHL like backup netminder Kevin Weekes would be, and so despite his stellar work in net, he's heading back down to the minors.
However, the move is likely temporary, as with the trade market lacking in capable goaltenders this year with a number of teams not out of the playoff picture, Weekes could be a sought-after asset before next Wednesday's deadline as numerous teams look for depth in net.
Now, the question is how Brodeur will perform back after so much time off. After all, this will mark the first season since the lockout-shortened campaign of 1994-95 where he's played in 40 games or fewer in a season. Clearly, the rest will be beneficial for him - as in past few years he's looked fatigued in April following 70-plus appearances in the regular seasons. But the question now with some time to rest and coming off his first serious injury, can he return to prime form when the team needs him most?
For one thing, Brodeur is more excited for a February start than he'd normally be.
"I'll start my preparation of having good meals, going to bed early," Brodeur said. "It's something I haven't done in a while. I'm excited about my (pregame) nap tomorrow."
Looking ahead, the other question is if Brent Sutter resumes Brodeur's normal workload, or gives his goaltender some extra rest to recover. Although with a game in Montreal looking eight games down the road, it could be an interesting quandry if the Devils get hot and he has a chance to tie or break Roy's mark at the rink where "St. Patrick" made his mark - and Brodeur's father was the Canadiens' team photographer.