Through all of the turmoil that has befallen the Devils this season, from the summerlong saga that was the Ilya Kovalchuk contract to the nightmare start from him and the rest of the offense not to mention the clueless AHL defense, one thing seemed to be a given. Well, besides GM Lou Lamoriello firing yet another coach.
When healthy, Martin Brodeur would be in net and Johan Hedberg would get the occasional game every two months just like every other Marty backup. Despite Brodeur's elbow injury in November, when he returned to the lineup in December he went right back to starting every game - until his ill-fated start in Carolina on Saturday where he gave up three goals in eight minutes and got the earliest hook from a game that anyone could ever remember.
Now, for the first time since 1994 the starting goaltender for the Devils is in doubt, as Hedberg will be making his second straight start at home against the Flyers Thursday, a game which is usually a must-play on the Brodeur schedule. More telling, after he was asked last Friday on whether it was time to get Hedberg more games, coach Jacques Lemaire said 'not yet'. It took only eight minutes of hockey for him to reverse course after Saturday's loss in Carolina, stating that Brodeur and Hedberg would be co-number ones.
It's been six years since a healthy Brodeur has sat two games in a row, and when that happened in 2004 it took two different goalies to replace #30 - Corey Schwab got a rare start, then was hurt and Scott Clemmensen took the next game between the pipes on the front end of a back-to-back. How long this stunning change of fortune lasts, who knows - a day, a week, a month or longer? For his part, Brodeur admitted that he didn't deserve to play since the team wasn't winning.
“I think in a season like (this) probably,” Brodeur said of spliting starts with Hedberg. “In a different season maybe not. We’ll see how it goes. I want to play a lot like always. That will never change. But it’s got to be fun for me to play hockey and not winning is not fun. So, we’ll get back winning and I’ll play more.
“But I don’t deserve to be in there when you don’t win. That’s the bottom line. I’ve been winning all of my career and now it’s been a little tougher, so it’s normal that somebody (else starts). If it works, good. It’s all about the team.”
Hedberg's tenure as the starter got off to an inauspicious beginning Tuesday, as he lost a tough 2-1 game to Minnesota where a simple dump-in by Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner took a ridiculous carom and deflected past Hedberg (who had gone to play the puck behind the net) and in for the winning goal. Of course there was blame to go all over the place, as usual. Kovalchuk, though he scored the only goal also gave up one by falling down (as did defenseman Anssi Salmela later on the same play) and letting Cal Clutterbuck streak in on Hedberg for a breakaway goal.
In other Devils news, Danius Zubrus now has an undisclosed injury and will miss his second straight game tomorrow. Brian Rolston after being put through 'conditioning' was back in the lineup Monday as crickets could be heard chirping all over New Jersey. And after admitting benching rookie Matthais Tedenby was a mistake Saturday he scratched the flashy Swede on Tuesday and benched fellow youngsters Vladimir Zharkov and Salmela for long stretches of the game...typical. We can't even let young players develop when the team's thirty points out.