Iron man goaltender Brodeur to undergo elbow surgery; out 3-4 months

NEWARK, N.J. -- For the next three to four months, the New Jersey Devils are going to learn about life without Martin Brodeur.

Brodeur, a four-time Vezina Trophy winner who is on the verge of becoming the NHL's all-time winningest goaltender, will be sidelined until at least February after tearing a distal biceps in his left elbow last weekend.

Brodeur, 36, will undergo surgery Thursday -- a development that also interrupts his charge toward setting two lofty records. He has 544 career wins, eight shy of breaking Patrick Roy's all-time NHL record of 551. He also is five shutouts from tying Terry Sawchuk's NHL record of 103.

He has played in 89.3 percent of the Devils' games (931 out of 1,043) since the lockout-shortened 1994-95 season.

"It's shocking because you expect my knee is going to go or my groin or my thumb, something I use as a goalie," Brodeur said Tuesday in a conference call. "I didn't expect my biceps could be a big factor in an injury. It was a freak accident. That's why I am shocked about the injury. That's not something I expected to hurt."

The biceps attaches to the big bone (proximal radius) in the forearm at the elbow joint.

Brodeur was injured Saturday against the Atlanta Thrashers while making a second-period glove save on a shot that was going wide of the net.

"I just extended my arm real quick and I just felt a pop, and a tapping kind of feeling in my biceps," said Brodeur, who stayed in the game for another minute before being replaced by Kevin Weekes, the man who will now be asked to take over for the 15-year veteran who has led the Devils to three Stanley Cups.

The injury was originally diagnosed as a bruised elbow, and Brodeur had hoped that it was not serious because there was no swelling or discoloration and there wasn't much pain.

Brodeur was taken to see several specialists before being told that the biceps had torn from the elbow and would require surgery.

"This is not a career-ending injury," Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said. "This is a bump in the road. [He'll have] a total recovery, 100 percent, and with this type of surgery there is no doubt about -- and I have total confidence that he will be back in a short period of time."

Brodeur said it will take two months before he can start moving the elbow again, and then he would begin rehabilitation.

"Then it depends on how it responds," said Brodeur, who had never had a major injury in his career; he has played in at least 67 games every NHL season since 1995-96.

"It is an unfortunate situation for me and for my team," Brodeur said. "It is what it is. My spirits are pretty good. I might as well stay positive. There is no reason to be negative. It is not something that will affect my career. My mobility, nothing is going to be a factor. It is just a question of getting my biceps back into shape."

A specialist, Dr. Steven Beldner, is scheduled to perform the surgery, with Devils team orthopedist Dr. Barry Fisher alongside.

Lamoriello said nonsurgical options were considered, but ultimately, "You don't do something that's not right. In my mind, this [surgery] is the only decision,'' he said.

Devils coach Brent Sutter found out about Brodeur's impending surgery and the expected recovery time after the team's morning skate.

"When reality hits you, it's like, 'OK, this is what's happening now,'" Sutter said. "Any coach out there would tell you what I'm about to say -- when you have Martin Brodeur as your goaltender and he's out for a long period of time, it certainly gives you a knot in your stomach.''

The starting job now falls to Weekes, who was outstanding on Monday night in a 2-0 loss to Buffalo, making 28 saves, including 19-of-20 in the first period. Scott Clemmensen will be Weekes' backup.

Brodeur called Weekes a great goalie and teammate, noting that the 33-year-old who is now in his 10th season was always upbeat last season despite playing in just nine games.

Brodeur had a streak of 56 straight starts before missing Monday's game. The most time he has missed because of injury was six games in November 2005, when he had a minor knee injury.

"I think it's a great opportunity for him [Weekes] to go out and prove himself to be the top goalie," Brodeur said. "He is going to play in front of a great team like I did for a lot of years and, hopefully, he will do well for us and hold the fort until I come back."

Brodeur has won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender four times, including last season, when he posted a 44-27 record and a 2.17 goals-against average. His seven seasons with 40 or more wins are an NHL record, and his 2.20 career GAA is the lowest in the NHL's modern era.

He set a single-season record for wins (48) in 2006-07, breaking Bernie Parent's mark of 47.

"It's unfortunate. It's too bad," New York Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "You want to see the best players in the game playing, obviously. We all have a lot of respect for Marty and what he's done, and we want to see him get healthy. But in the meantime, let's make hay."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.