The New York/New Jersey newspapers already started speculating on Martin Brodeur's return a couple of weeks ago, but the issue has become much realer today, given that there's now a tangible return date for the future Hall of Famer -- a February 26th contest against the Avalanche.
Given the team's tight-lipped nature regarding Brodeur's recovery, the fact that this news has leaked gives that date a lot of gravitas, even though it's still just a "tentative" target.
The contest comes on the heels of a four-day break, which will ostensibly give Brodeur time to get some hard team practices in beforehand. It also comes six days before the trade deadline, perhaps giving the team time to evaluate Brodeur before dealing Scott Clemmensen or Kevin Weekes to a team looking for depth in net before the playoffs. Still, I think they'll just carry three goalies for the rest of the year.
Integrating Brodeur into the lineup isn't a problem -- he's going to start again right away when he's healthy, though he'll probably give up a few more starts down the stretch than he would normally -- but Brent Sutter has already said Brodeur will have to win games right away, given the team's high-stakes spot in the standings and President's Trophy race. What will happen if he doesn't? Does Sutter have the stones to do what is perhaps best for the team, even if it means upsetting the best player in franchise history?
I guess, really, it's a good problem to have, if it's a problem at all. Brodeur's a legend for a reason, and while injury is a completely foreign concept to him, it's possible he steps back in net and doesn't miss a beat.