Chicago Blackhawks center John Madden has had Thursday’s game against the New Jersey Devils circled for quite a while. Facing the team that he won two Stanley Cups with, and goaltender Martin Brodeur, whom he calls “a good friend,” is more than enough excitement for New Year’s Eve. Hours before the contest I caught up with No. 11:
Unless you’re made of stone, you have to have some emotions about tonight. This isn’t just the team that signed you. You won two Stanley Cups there and played your whole career there until this year. What are you feeling right now?
John Madden: I think it’s going to be a fun experience. A lot of guys I played with in the minors back in ’97 are there. I broke in the league with them; guys like Colin White, Jay Pandolfo, those guys. Played a lot of years with them, shared a lot of moments with them, not only on the ice but away from the rink as well. It’s going to be different and difficult at times, but this is what we do for a living, so it’s going to be fun, but I still have a job to do.
Are some of the young guys asking how to solve Marty Brodeur?
JM: Yeah, they’ve asked plenty of questions. I never seem to have had the answer in practice when I was there, so it’s the usual with any goalie, especially Brodeur. You need to get traffic in front of him. If you don’t, and he sees the puck, he’ll stop 99 percent of them, so that will be a key for us: to penetrate that area and try to create a lot of traffic.
Other than scoring on probably the best goaltender to ever play the game, anybody else you want to get a lick on from your former team?
JM: (laughing) No, no personal stuff like that, but I definitely would like to get one by Marty. Like you said, he’s the best goalie to ever play, especially in my opinion, so scoring on him would make me feel good.
They’re coming off a shutout last night like they so often do with him in net. You guys have given up nine in the last two games, but you did split them. Is there a trend here you need to reverse?
JM: Yeah, we have to pay attention to detail in our own zone and get back to what we were doing before, and that’s just playing solid D. I think we’ll get more scoring chances that way, so it’s definitely been addressed and we’ll try to take care of that tonight.
Beating your old team, a nice way to ring in the New Year?
JM: For sure. Anytime you can get two points in the NHL, regardless of who you’re playing, but particularly --not just a former team -- but they are the best team in the league right now. They’re playing good, have great goaltending, both young and older players are playing well, so we have our work cut out for us tonight. It’s going to be difficult.
So no trash talking?
JM: No. I have too much respect for them.
Cristobal Huet will start in net. Joel Quenenville doesn’t think a big deal should be made out of him being pulled against Dallas. “Sometimes you have bad nights … we’re comfortable [with him],” Quenneville said.
Patrick Kane is on a nice streak with five straight games with at least a goal, including consecutive two-goal games. He’s scored seven overall in his last five and added three assists, but he’s keeping a level head. “It’s been a fun little ride, but the most important thing is where this team is going,” Kane said after Thursday’s morning practice. “If you can help out scoring goals it’s obviously good for the team, and that’s what I’ll try to keep doing.”
Kane and teammate Dustin Byfuglien will find out Friday if they make the U.S. Olympic team. All signs point to Kane making it while Byfuglien will have to wait for the call -- or in this case no call. “Yeah, it’s a little unusual, if you don’t make it, they call you, so I’m hoping my phone doesn’t ring,” Byfuglien said. “Knowing me, I’ll have my phone off anyway.”