The Devils have won four in a row with Martin Brodeur back on the ice, and they’ll try to make it five straight Saturday afternoon on Long Island, where the Islanders handed them their last loss one game before Brodeur’s return.
New Jersey (42-19-3) added veteran defenseman Niclas Havelid on Monday, two days before the NHL’s trade deadline, but its most significant addition came a week earlier.
Brodeur returned on Feb. 26 from the left elbow surgery that had sidelined him for 50 games, and he’s looked brilliant in four starts since coming back. The four-time Vezina Trophy winner has posted two shutouts and allowed four goals combined in his other two victories, the latest a 30-save effort Wednesday in the Devils’ 3-2 overtime win at Toronto.
“When I came back I was 100 percent healthy with my arm,” Brodeur said after moving within four wins of breaking Patrick Roy’s NHL record of 551 career victories. “It’s just a question of testing it right now. The last four games I’ve done everything I can in a lot of different situations and my arm has held up pretty good.”
New Jersey was holding up well before Brodeur came back, and it’s in even better position now. The Devils are nine points clear of Philadelphia atop the Atlantic Division and just six behind Boston in the race for home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference.
They’ve lost only four games since Jan. 11, compiling an NHL-best 36 points, but one of those four losses came two weeks ago at the Nassau Coliseum. In the last game before Brodeur’s comeback, Islanders goaltender Yann Danis made 40 saves in a 4-0 win on Feb. 21.
Bill Guerin scored New York’s final goal in that victory, and that was also his last goal in an Islanders uniform. New York (20-37-7) traded the veteran winger, who had a team-high 16 goals, to Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
In a matchup of the league’s two lowest-scoring teams on Thursday, the New York Rangers got the better of their local rivals. Danis only stopped 19 of the Rangers’ 23 shots in a 4-2 loss.
Coach Scott Gordon, though, wasn’t disappointed with the Islanders’ effort.
“There wasn’t anybody who had an off night tonight,” Gordon told the team’s official Web site. “From top to bottom we were pretty solid.”
Brodeur has 10 of his 100 career shutouts - his most against any team - against the Islanders, and his 41 wins over them rank second to his 43 versus Philadelphia. He’s lost five of his past eight starts against New York despite having a 1.91 goals-against average.
Brodeur is 9-5-0 with a 1.51 GAA in the series in his past 14 starts.
Prior to the 4-0 loss to the Islanders two weeks ago, the Devils had dominated New York this season without Brodeur, outscoring them 14-6 in winning all four meetings.
Zach Parise, who has 38 goals to rank behind only Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, has been the big difference against the Islanders. He had four goals and six assists in the first four meetings with New York.