Penguins Notebook: Clemmensen fills hole with Brodeur out
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It's not that the New Jersey Devils don't miss Martin Brodeur.
They do. They have to.
After all, he is on the short list of the greatest goaltenders in NHL history and has been the face of his franchise for more than a decade.
But Brodeur hasn't played since getting an elbow injury Nov. 1. He underwent surgery five days later and is expected to be out several more months.
Matchup: Penguins at New Jersey Devils, 7:08 p.m. today, Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.
TV, radio: FSN Pittsburgh, WXDX-FM (105.9).
Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury for Penguins. Scott Clemmensen for Devils.
Penguins: Are 3-6 in past nine games, including 4-1 loss at New Jersey Dec. 10. ... RW Miroslav Satan's next goal will be his 350th in NHL. ... C Sidney Crosby has gone three games without an assist.
Devils: Are 11-6-1 at home. ... C John Madden does not have goal in his past 20 games. ... Are 13-2-2 when scoring first.
Hidden stat: C Evgeni Malkin has at least one point in 17 of the Penguins' 18 victories.
Brodeur has missed 22 games in a row after being forced to sit out just 12 during the previous 14 seasons so, predictably, it still seems a bit unusual when he isn't in the crease.
"I don't think you get used to not seeing Marty there," Devils forward David Clarkson said. "He's probably the biggest part of this team."
True enough, but the Devils, who will face the Penguins tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., have remained quite competitive without him.
Much of the credit for that belongs to Scott Clemmensen, who was No. 3 on the Devils' depth chart this fall but hurdled Kevin Weekes to become the go-to guy in Brodeur's absence. He is 11-4-1, with a 2.22 goals-against average and .922 save percentage.
"Scott's been on top of his game, given [his team] a chance to win every night," Devils center Brian Rolston said. "Obviously, right when [Brodeur was hurt], everybody was 'Uh-oh, what's going to happen?'
"And there were a few games of adjustment, but, for the most part, we've had the good goaltending, and guys have been going out and playing hard on a nightly basis."
Clemmensen can't match Brodeur's level of excellence, but that's mostly because Brodeur's game is so incredibly refined and well-rounded.
"Marty, when a team dumps [the puck] in, he usually is out there and has it, and it's back the other way," Clarkson said. "His rebounds are pretty much [directed] to a stick of a guy on your team."
Although Brodeur should return in time for the playoffs, the Devils won't count on him to lead them there. And, with the way Clemmensen has played, they shouldn't have to.
"Marty's the best goalie in NHL history, but it's going to take a long time for him to come back," Rolston said. "In the meantime, we've got to forget about that."
The Penguins returned blue-collar winger Tim Wallace to their minor league team in Wilkes-Barre earlier this week, but not before he made a strong, positive impression on management with his performance.
Enough of one that he figures to be high on the list of candidates the next time they need someone to plug in on the third or fourth line.
"He's got the speed to play his game at this level," coach Michel Therrien said. "Sometimes, that can be tough for some players who can play a grinding game in the American League when the speed is not there.
"They get to the NHL and want to do it, but they can't get there. A guy like Wallace has the speed to get there."
Wallace, who made his NHL debut Dec. 10 at New Jersey, played seven games with the Penguins, and acknowledged some adjustments were needed when he stepped up from the American Hockey League.
"It's the best league in the world," he said. "Guys are a lot smarter and quicker. It's definitely a jump from the American League."
The Penguins have allowed nine power-play goals during the past six games, and Therrien suggested that problems they've had while short-handed lately might stem, at least in part, from some of the personnel they've added to the penalty-killing rotation.
Not because those guys lack the ability to do the job, but because they aren't accustomed to operating within the limitations that role imposes.
"When penalty-killers are on the ice, they take pride in shooting the puck 200 feet [down the ice]," Therrien said. "That's their job.
"Right now, we put power-play guys on the penalty-kill, and they don't take pride in shooting the puck 200 feet. They want to make plays. That's the way they've been brought up. It's an adjustment for them to kill penalties.
"You know you're going to struggle a little more having power-play guys kill penalties. It's not something where, now you're going to kill penalties, and you're [automatically] going to end up being a Doug Jarvis. That's not the way it works. It takes time."
First Published December 26, 2008 12:00 am