If you think being a relief pitcher is tough, try being a backup goaltender.
Johan Hedberg wasn’t supposed to play on Thursday night, but all of a sudden he found himself between the pipes.
“I always try to stay ready in case something happens,” Hedberg said after earning his second victory of the season following the Devils’ 2-1 shootout win over the Kings. “I don’t prepare as much mentally when I know I’m not gonna play, even though I try to.”
Hedberg was just relaxing on the end of the Devils' bench when Martin Brodeur was struck in the right shoulder by a point shot almost eight minutes into Thursday night’s game. All of a sudden, Brodeur's backup found himself scrambling down the tunnel to grab his goalie mask.
Brodeur wound up finishing the first period, but couldn’t continue in the second. So when the Devils came out onto the ice before the start of the middle frame, it was Hedberg -- not Brodeur -- who was leading them.
“I waited a few minutes [during the intermission] until I got the nod,” Hedberg said. “In the back of my mind I was pretty sure I was gonna go in.”
Hedberg saw plenty of rubber out of the bullpen, but he stopped every shot he faced -- all 18 of them. Sixteen in regulation and overtime, and then two in the shootout.
“All of a sudden my adrenaline kicked in,” Hedberg said. “You get nervous but then you become more focused at the same time.”
Brodeur has been injury prone the last two seasons -- he missed a combined 76 games -- so Hedberg may get plenty of opportunity in the net.
But based on how he’s fared since signing as a free agent with New Jersey before the start of the 2010-11 campaign, that shouldn’t be much of an issue.
“Johan pitched a great game for us,” head coach Peter DeBoer said.