Martin Brodeur has been sharp in his two victories since missing 10 games with a back injury.
That could be critical considering the goaltender may have to shoulder a heavier burden as the New Jersey Devils face the Ottawa Senators on Monday night without Ilya Kovalchuk. The NHL's all-time leader in wins, Brodeur turned aside a combined 34 of 36 shots in wins over Carolina and Florida. He made 17 saves Saturday in a 2-1 win over the Panthers, the 666th of his storied career.
"I feel pretty good, excited to be back," said Brodeur, who has a 2.97 goals-against average in four straight losses in Ottawa. "It's a work in progress as far as getting my game where I want to be, and the boys are playing well in front of me, which makes my life a lot easier. The more you play, the more you start adjusting to situations." The Devils (15-11-6) will have to make offensive adjustments as well after they learned Kovalchuk second on the team in scoring with 10 goals and 17 assists will miss at least two weeks with a shoulder injury suffered in the third period of Saturday's win. Harri Pesonen, who has no points in three games this season, was recalled from Albany to fill Kovalchuk's spot on the roster and some of the league-leading 25:13 of ice time he logs per game.
"It's not an operative situation," general manager Lou Lamoriello said regarding Kovalchuk's injury. "It's a shoulder injury, and as I said, it could be two (weeks), it could be four, it could be less, but certainly not more." Ottawa (17-9-6) knows all about playing through injuries with top center Jason Spezza, Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson and No. 1 goaltender Craig Anderson all missing significant chunks of time. The Senators, though, beat Tampa Bay 5-3 on Saturday for their fourth win in five games and overcame a nervy third period in which they nearly squandered all of a four-goal lead they created in the opening 20 minutes. "There was something different, and we're going to look at it (Sunday), but we didn't play as well as we should," Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar said of the third period. "But the most important thing this time of the year is that we're getting points as a team.
" Gonchar set a franchise record by recording an assist for the 10th consecutive game and has notched eight of his team-high 20 helpers during Ottawa's current five-game surge. Gonchar, who leads the Senators with 22 points, hasn't recorded one in his last 12 games against the Devils. Ben Bishop will get the start after Robin Lehner split the first two games of this five-game homestand. Bishop made 30 saves and turned aside all three shootout attempts in Ottawa's 2-1 victory at New Jersey on Feb. 18 in the only meeting between the teams this season. Daniel Alfredsson's third-period goal canceled out Stephen Gionta's first-period tally, and rookie Jakob Silfverberg beat Brodeur for the only goal in the shootout.