Game of the Week preview: Devils at Coyotes

January, 14, 2010

My colleague and good friend Scott Burnside arrives in Phoenix on Thursday for a few days of Coyotes coverage, so I'll focus this Game of the Week preview on tonight's visiting team, the mighty New Jersey Devils.

One month and two days from now, Martin Brodeur likely will start in goal when Team Canada takes on Norway in its Olympic opener in a frenzied Vancouver.

The question is, will he be out of breath?

The 37-year-old superstar leads all NHL goalies in games played (42) and minutes played (2,459). This from a guy who four years ago in Torino, Italy, looked me straight in the face and said he figured it was his last Olympics because he wasn't sure he'd still be playing in 2010. Yeah ... OK.

Every season, Brodeur hears the talk that the Devils should spot him more nights off. Unless there's an injury, like last season, he doesn't even blink; he just goes out and plays almost every night. This time around, he could very well challenge his career high of 78 appearances from the 2006-07 season.

"He's an amazing athlete," Devils GM Lou Lamoriello told this week.

Sean Avery didn't think so a few seasons ago when he famously questioned Brodeur's physique. Whether it's by coincidence or not, the Devils netminder has since shed some weight and toned his frame, thanks to some rigorous offseason training.

But no matter how in shape the man is, at some point, do you not worry about his workload this season, especially given that he'll be playing in the Olympics?

"The rest ratio on nongame days, that's important," Lamoriello said, noting that Brodeur gets the odd practice off when coach Jacques Lemaire sees fit. "The coaches have done a great job in monitoring it. And he also knows his body. He's felt good; he's in great shape. It's monitored daily. It's not something that's taken for granted. He gets days off when necessary. So far, everything has worked out well. And what more can you say about him? He just keeps going."

Roberto Luongo also has been on fire, especially in the past month, but I'll be shocked if Brodeur isn't the main man in Vancouver. I thought it was interesting to hear Curtis Joseph reminisce about the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City during his retirement news conference Tuesday. It's an experience that carries mixed feelings for CuJo. He was yanked after an opening loss to Sweden and never saw the net again, as Brodeur came in and helped lead Canada to a gold medal.

But eight years later, it's a move Joseph understands.

"Marty was in a zone," Joseph said. "I remember watching him in practice; he was in a zone, for sure. He was the best guy to go with at the time. If you would have [seen] him in practice, he was spectacular."

That same focus is now on display for the Devils. The Olympics are around the corner, but Brodeur doesn't let his mind wander to that. He'll zero in on the Games the day he steps off the plane in Vancouver.

"Marty's focus is right here now, and that's what's so amazing about him," Lamoriello said. "He's able to focus on what's at hand and doesn't let anything that happens that day before or what's going to come the day after get in the way. He's got that ability that he's born with.

"It's going to be a great Olympics, but right now, that's not on my mind, either. We're getting ready for Phoenix."

Devils everywhere
I mentioned in Monday's blog how the Devils' reach could be felt deeply on the 2010 U.S. Olympic team. Jamie Langenbrunner was named captain, and teammate Zach Parise and former Devils defenseman Brian Rafalski were named alternate captains.

Lamoriello is proud of that and reminded me those aren't the only New Jersey connections among Olympic captains.

"Patrik Elias is captain of the Czech team and [former Devils star] Scott Niedermayer of the Canadian team," Lamoriello said. "It's all well deserved. They all do one thing the same way -- they put the logo first. That's what it's all about."

Just as his team is doing yet again this season.

"We've been very fortunate," the New Jersey GM said. "Everybody in our organization buys into the same philosophy. They buy into exactly what it takes to win. It's not about individuals. It could be anybody on any given night.

"You can't ask for more than the ways these guys have responded this year."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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