Brodeur set for 19th year, Matteau pumped for 1st
Martin Brodeur is entering his 19th season in the NHL with a little excitement, some expectation and a new teammate who is a blast from the past:
''Matteau! Matteau! Matteau!''
The Devils started the season off with a surprise Friday, placing top draft pick Stefan Matteau, 18, on their 23-man roster for the opener against the New York Islanders Saturday.
The rookie's father, Stephane Matteau, is a former New York Ranger, who helped defeat Brodeur and the Devils in a classic 1994 Eastern Conference final series. Stephane scored in double overtime of Game 7 to eliminate New Jersey en route to a New York Stanley Cup. His famous tally prompted the aforementioned radio call by former Rangers play-by-play man, Howie Rose.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer would not announce who would dress for the game, other than say that the 40-year-old Brodeur would be starting in goal for the Eastern Conference champions who came up two wins shy of a fourth Stanley Cup
''I get excited,'' Brodeur said. ''Butterflies? I'm not sure about that. I get excited. You want to do well right from the get-go. This is where you start your journey. It starts tomorrow night. We'll try to get ourselves into the playoffs first and after that, challenging for a Stanley Cup. It's always special to start the season regardless if it's a short season, any kind of season.
''We're under way now. It's great.''
Matteau probably will be a lot more excited if he sees his new No. 15 on the lineup sheet. He wore No. 34 in camp, and was expected to return to his junior team in Canada, where his father is an assistant coach. But he's sticking around. And an hour before the Devils announced his inclusion on the roster, Matteau was readying for gameday.
''Obviously, it's nerve-wracking, but hopefully, it will be my first NHL game,'' Matteau said. ''I am preparing to play.''
Matteau has been impressive in training camp. He scored a goal against Brodeur on a shot from the circle during a power play early in the week and DeBoer said there is no doubt that he will have a long career in the league.
''I think I can compete with these guys, but it's a different game (than juniors),'' he said. ''Guys are a lot stronger and faster and everything is so simple. It makes the game a lot easier. I have definitely learned a lot. These are men and I think I can compete with these guys.''
Matteau refused to speculate on whether his chances of sticking around will be hurt by a lockout-shortened season.
''I didn't think about it,'' Matteau said. ''My goal was just to make the team.''
Most observers felt the Devils would send Matteau down rather than have his first year come in a 48-game season. The left wing can still be sent down after five games and not lose his rookie service time.
Ironically, Brodeur, who as a rookie allowed the famous wraparound to Matteau's father at Madison Square Garden, won't be the only tie to the past if the younger Matteau does make his debut Saturday. Rose is now the television play-by-play man for the Islanders, so another ''Matteau!'' call would not be out of the question.
New Jersey made room for Matteau by assigning injured center Adam Henrique (thumb surgery) and left wing Mattias Tedenby to Albany of the AHL. The Devils also placed right wing Bobby Butler on waivers. Tedenby did not have to clear waivers to be sent down.
The Devils also asked veteran left wing Mathieu Darche to continue practicing with the team while it decides whether to offer him a contract. The former Montreal Canadiens forward was invited to the training camp on a tryout basis. Darche said Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello made no promises about the future.
''We'll see what the next week brings, and I'll keep trying to get my legs under me,'' Darche said. ''It's been a long offseason with all those negotiations and I need to get back my legs and we'll see what happens.''
Center Jacob Josefson, who has been bothered by a foot injury since camp opened, didn't practice on Friday. DeBoer said there is still a chance he will play on Saturday.
Whoever plays will be happy just to get on the ice.
''I'm very excited,'' Devils forward Ilya Kovalchuk said. ''Hockey is back in North America. We very excited. We're excited for the fans.
`We hope they come back and support us 100 percent like they did all those year.''