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Hedberg excited for first start

Sixteen players at Devils' optional morning skate

Saturday, 10.23.2010 / 10:45 AM ET / News
By Eric Marin
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Hedberg excited for first start
It's impossible to predict how many starts Johan Hedberg will get this season, but that doesn't stop the veteran netminder from having an outstanding work ethic. The ninth-year NHLer is a tough competitor who has impressed teammates and coaches leading up to his first start tonight against Buffalo.

"One thing about Johan that we haven’t had to ask, he works hard every practice that he comes to," head coach John MacLean said. "His work ethic’s there and he deserves a chance to get in there. Tonight’s going to be his opportunity to play, and we have to play just as well as we did in Montreal."

Over his career, Hedberg has played some of his best hockey against the Sabres. He owns a 12-2-2 mark against them with a 2.60 goals-against average and one shutout. But he won't put too much stock into past statistics heading into this game.

"I have no idea why those are," said Hedberg, who wasn't aware of his record against Buffalo. "But now everything's new anyway. I'm on a new team and it's a totally different environment. I don't think it's going to matter who we're playing. I need to focus on what I have to do and try not to worry too much about them."

Every outing poses a new challenge.

"Regardless of what has happened before, it's not going to change what's going to happen tonight," he said. "I want to come in with a clear head where I'm focused, whether it's Boston or Buffalo or the Rangers. Whoever's on the other side, I have to play and focus on what I'm going to do."

Of course, future Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur will handle the majority of the Devils' starts this season. But MacLean believes Hedberg has earned tonight's opportunity.

"He competes, he battles," said MacLean. "That’s something that’s contagious. You see it. He doesn’t like to get scored on, you can see it in practice. Marty works extremely hard in practice. As far as his compete level, Johan’s a professional. He’s one of those guys, when he’s in practice, he’s working. He doesn’t like to get scored on. He works. That’s a credit to him. That’s his personality. That’s who he is."

It will be the 295th NHL appearance for Hedberg, who relieved Brodeur in Washington back on Oct. 9. He expects to feel a little nervous in his first Devils start.

"Absolutely," he said. "There'll be butterflies. To me, that's something positive. If I'm not nervous, I don't feel that I'm really, really sharp. It's a positive thing."

The Devils are looking to make it two wins in a row following Thursday's 3-0 blanking of the Canadiens. Brodeur posted 29 saves for his second shutout of the season, and Zach Parise, Jason Arnott and Matt Taormina all contributed goals.

Parise hopes that the Devils can build some momentum off of that tonight.

"I think if we can keep going forward in the right direction, that’s going to be important not to take a step backwards tonight, just for our own confidence," he said. "Most importantly, to start climbing up the standings. I don’t think anyone likes walking in and seeing ourselves at the bottom of the Eastern Conference."

As of this morning, the Devils didn't know if they would face Ryan Miller or Patrick Lalime. Miller started Friday night, when the Sabres lost, 4-2, to Ottawa at home.

In the Devils' 1-0 overtime win at Buffalo on Oct. 13, Parise learned that they must test whoever's between the pipes.

"This team will give you your chances," Parise said. "They backcheck hard, but I think if you play smart against them, you’re going to get your opportunities."

Said MacLean of the previous meeting with Buffalo: "We did a lot of things, we didn’t give up a lot of chances, we won the battles, I thought we had good stick. That’s what we need to continue to do."

Sixteen Devils took part in Saturday's optional morning skate.

Players that did not skate were Travis Zajac, Dainius Zubrus, Patrik Elias and Jason Arnott. Johan Hedberg gets his first start tonight.

Forwards: Zach Parise, Jacob Josefson, Ilya Kovalchuk, Rod Pelley, Jamie Langenbrunner, Adam Mair, Tim Sestito, David Clarkson

Defense: Colin White, Andy Greene, Olivier Magnan, Henrik Tallinder, Matt Taormina, Matt Corrente

Goaltenders: Martin Brodeur, Johan Hedberg