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Martin Brodeur says he’s ready to play, but is New Jersey ready to play him?

Nov 1, 2011, 12:59 PM EDT

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New Jersey Devils G Martin Brodeur spoke to the media today about coming off IR and the state of his injured shoulder. According to Tom Gulitti of NorthJersey.com, Brodeur told Devils goalie coach Chris Terreri that “if they need me tomorrow, I’ll be okay to play.”

Which leaves the decision of when to get Brodeur back into action with head coach Peter DeBoer. (The future Hall-of-Famer has been out since Oct. 13 and played just 80 minutes all told this season.)

So, when should Marty play?

At first glance, the answer is right away — 38-year-old backup Johan Hedberg has started seven consecutive games. He began strongly with two straight wins, but has fallen back to earth lately by going 1-3-1 over his last five while allowing seven goals in his last two outings.

Yet when asked if Brodeur would play Wednesday in Toronto, DeBoer was non-committal. “He’ll make that call,” DeBoer said. “This guy knows his body better than anybody. There’s nothing that I can look at out there and decide what he knows. He knows his body. We just don’t want to rush him to get in there.”

While it’s probably true the organization doesn’t want to rush Brodeur back, you have to wonder about what Rich Chere of the New Jersey Star-Ledger wrote this week. Chere posed the question — “Will Johan Hedberg split workload when Martin Brodeur returns?” — an always uncomfortable topic in New Jersey. Brodeur’s a living legend and one of the greatest to ever play the position; asking if he should be splitting time with a career journeyman can be dicey.

But Hedberg’s shown he can be a viable option in goal. In addition to his stellar work this year (4-3-1, .924 GAA, 2.28 save percentage), he was equally impressive last year, going 15-12-2 (.912, 2.38) while Brodeur missed time with elbow and knee injuries.

We’re also at a time where coaches are apt to ride hot hands in net. Davis Payne has used Brian Elliott extensively in St. Louis and Guy Boucher has turned to Mathieu Garon in Tampa, and both have been rewarded in the win column.

Throw in the fact New Jersey wants back in the playoffs after missing last season, and you have a team where playing time might be dictated by performance — not by reputation.

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