In a remarkable career filled with accomplishments, Martin Brodeur's next achievement will rank as his most impressive.
After matching the career record for goaltending victories in his native Montreal, Brodeur can set the all-time mark in New Jersey - the only professional home he's known - on Tuesday night when the surging Devils face the Chicago Blackhawks.
Brodeur's legacy as one of the game's best goaltenders is already secure, having won four Vezina Trophies, three Stanley Cups and 551 games in 16 seasons - all with the Devils. The argument that he is the best ever at his position will gain credence with his 552nd win, which will move him past Hall of Famer Patrick Roy into the all-time lead.
Showing no signs of slowing down and with three years left on his contract, Brodeur's final win total won't be matched for a long time. The closest active goalies behind him are Curtis Joseph (484) - a backup with Toronto - and Detroit's Chris Osgood (385), who at age 36 is unlikely to ever equal Brodeur's total.
"I will just put myself in a class of my own, for now," Brodeur said Monday when asked about breaking the mark. "When people look at stats now, there are two names at 551. There will be one name at 552 when I get there. After that, it's 553 and I will just try to raise the bar as high as I can."
While many of his contemporaries are slowing down, Brodeur appears to somehow be getting better. He would have broken the record earlier this season, but he suffered the first serious injury of his career and missed nearly four months while recovering from left elbow surgery.
The time off may have been beneficial for the 10-time All-Star, who improved to 7-1-0 with a 1.94 goals-against average since his Feb. 26 return with 22 saves in a 3-1 victory over Montreal on Saturday.
Brodeur's first chance to set the record comes against a Blackhawks team that has lost four of five. He is 7-2-0 with four ties and a 1.88 lifetime GAA against them but hasn't faced Chicago (37-21-9) since Nov. 9, 2006, long before young stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews arrived with the Blackhawks.
"It's a tough team, young team coming in here and it'll be the first time I play against some of those guys, so it'll be an interesting game," Brodeur said.
The Devils (45-20-3) have earned at least one point in 11 straight games against the Blackhawks, going 9-0-0 with two ties since a 2-1 loss on Oct. 10, 1998.
Brodeur would like nothing better than to surpass Roy's record in New Jersey.
"There is that sense of pride being on one team and making the commitment to people in the organization and fans, that you want to stay here and love where you are at," Brodeur said.
Whether it's been Brodeur, Scott Clemmensen or Kevin Weekes in net, the Devils continue to win. New Jersey has gone an NHL-best 38-13-1 since Nov. 15 to move within six points of Boston for the Eastern Conference lead.
The Devils have also won nine straight at home, limiting opponents to 13 total goals in that span.
Brodeur's longtime teammate Patrik Elias is also on the doorstep of history, needing one point to become the Devils' all-time scoring leader. He has 701, tying him for the lead with current assistant coach John MacLean.
"Patty's accomplishment is pretty phenomenal in itself," Devils coach Brent Sutter told the team's official Web site. "Obviously it says something about the career that Johnny Mac had here, and I think that goes unnoticed a little bit too."
Despite their current slump, the Blackhawks are still in line to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2001-02. Chicago, coming off Sunday's 4-2 home loss to the New York Islanders, is fourth in the West, two points ahead of Vancouver.
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