Martin Brodeur thinking return

NEWARK, N.J. -- Even if New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur wins his fourth Stanley Cup championship, he's leaning toward coming back next season.

Brodeur, 40, is slated to become a free agent at the end of the season. But the 18-year veteran has reiterated that he doesn't want to hang up his skates anytime soon.

"I'm really enjoying this," Brodeur told reporters after practice Monday. "Regardless of what happens this series, we made a great step last year, and we've got a good team together, a good coaching staff, and it's fun, you know?

"For me it's all about having fun coming to the rink. Some say it's fun to retire on top or whatever, but at the end of the day, when I'm gonna say it's over, it's gonna be over. I'm not gonna come back. We'll see. I hope you don't have to replay that tape there. And that's gonna be it, I wanna make sure I make the right decision. But right now, I'm leaning to coming back."

Brodeur, the NHL's all-time winningest goalie who won the Stanley Cup in 1995, 2000 and 2003, looked as though he were finished after getting off to a 5-18-1 start last season.

But he went 31-21-4 during the 2011-12 regular season, and has continued his run of stellar play in the playoffs. In 18 starts, he's 12-5 with a 2.04 goals-against average, a .923 save percentage and one shutout.

Brodeur made 43 saves in New Jersey's double-overtime victory over the Florida Panthers in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, then stopped 33 shots in his team's overtime triumph over the Rangers in Game 6 of the conference finals.

"Oh, definitely. There's no doubt about it," Brodeur said when asked if this season has made him have second thoughts about retiring. "The way I've enjoyed myself, having fun with the young guys, we gelled as a team, and coming to the rink is fun. That's what I was looking for. I wasn't having fun last year. Regardless of whether we made the playoffs, it was just a tough year for everybody. I'm not used to it. I never really lost. Once in 1996 I didn't make the playoffs. And now that was a second time, and it was tough.

"For me, I really thought this was going to be my last year. And more and more it was like, 'Wow, this is, hockey's so fun.' And that's been my thought process."

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals is Wednesday night at Prudential Center.

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.