Martin returns tonight vs. Penguins
Nearly five months since fracturing his left forearm against the Penguins, the Devils’ top defenseman will be back in action when they host the defending Stanley Cup champs.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Martin said Wednesday morning. “It’s been a while. It’s exciting just to be around the guys, to get back in there and to play a game. I’m trying not to get too excited, but I think it’ll be fun.”
Martin said physical therapist Gary Flink felt he looked better than expected in Tuesday’s practice. At Wednesday’s morning skate, Martin told head coach Jacques Lemaire that he was ready to go.
“I was shooting the puck well and everything felt good,” Martin said. “The next thing is to get in there, and it’s only going to help the sooner I get in there.”
Wednesday’s game will mark the first time this season the Devils have fielded a fully healthy lineup. After Patrik Elias missed the first 13 games of the year to recover from groin surgery, New Jersey had to cope with a slew of key injuries. David Clarkson missed 36 of 38 games with a fractured bone in his right leg, and Elias later missed another 11 games with concussion symptoms.
Jay Pandolfo was shelved for 17 games after suffering an upper body injury in the same Oct. 24 contest, and Dainius Zubrus missed 30 games after blocking a shot at Nashville in November.
"He's a big player for us," captain Jamie Langenbrunner said of Martin. "He was our No. 1 defenseman before he went out and I hope he'll be able to get back to playing that way. It's like adding a top defenseman. He basically hasn't been here all year, so it's going to be huge for us."
Martin isn’t sure what to expect in his first game back. He's likely to rest Thursday night when the club visits Toronto.
“It’s been so long that I’ll probably just keep it simple,” Martin said. “I don’t know what kind of minutes I’ll log or anything like that. But keep it simple, do the small things, and hopefully play into a comfort level that I’m used to. I don’t know how long that’s going to take, but I’m definitely excited and looking forward to it.”
Martin coming back gives the Devils another offensive threat, especially on the power play.
“He’s a great skater, plays a game where he controls the puck, makes good passes.” Lemaire said. “He can bring some offense.”
Did Martin return just to wear the team’s retro red and green?
“If I knew that, I would’ve asked Lou (Lamoriello) to get that uniform earlier,” Lemaire joked.