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The Devils and Montreal Canadiens will square off in a key Eastern Conference battle tonight, but that won't be what's on the minds of most of the Bell Centre crowd.
Instead, the stage will belong to Devils goalie Martin Brodeur.
In a twist that could barely have been scripted, Brodeur will have a chance to match Patrick Roy's all-time record for goaltending victories in his native Montreal, which is also where Roy won a pair of Stanley Cups and spent the majority of his Hall of Fame career (7 p.m., MSG Plus, WFAN 660 AM).
"It just adds to the story. You can't ask for a better script," Brodeur said. "... It's definitely going to be a different atmosphere. I'll try to maintain my emotions and try not to be distracted by it all."
"This is going to be a bit of pressure and stuff," he added. "It should be fun. I'm happy I'll be able to live it, and live it with my family and friends."
A victory over the team he supported as a child would be a major high point in what has been a trying season for Brodeur, who missed nearly four months as he recovered from elbow surgery.
But the four-time Vezina trophy winner has been as sharp as ever since his Feb. 26 return, starting all seven of New Jersey's games and going 6-1-0 with a 2.08 goals-against average.
A 5-2 victory over Phoenix on Thursday night set up Saturday's dream scenario in Montreal, where Brodeur will have a chance to move alongside Roy with his 551st win - one of several records that Roy holds. Both goalies are already acknowledged among the best to ever play the game.
"It's fantastic. It's amazing," Roy said. "He has such a great approach to the game. He always gets along with the expectations and the pressure. He makes it look so easy every night, and if someone knows how tough it is, it's me."
Brodeur hopes to get a chance to equal Roy with his fourth Stanley Cup later this year, and the way the Devils (44-20-3) are playing it's looking like he has a very good chance.
New Jersey heads north having won 20 of its last 25 overall, moving the team within six points of Boston for the East lead. The Devils are also an NHL-best 37-13-1 since Nov. 15.
In addition to their Brodeur-led defense, they've also scored at least three goals in each of their last seven, with five different players registering goals against the Coyotes - including Zach Parise's 40th of the season.
They'll be looking to finish 4-0-0 this season against the Canadiens, who have stumbled over the past two months and are now fighting just to stay in the playoff picture. They're in fifth place in the East, but they only have a three-point lead on ninth-place Florida.
Montreal (36-24-8) is also adjusting to a new leader behind its bench, after general manager Bob Gainey fired coach Guy Carbonneau on Monday and took over the job.
Gainey's debut was a successful one as the Canadiens beat Edmonton 4-3 on Tuesday, but they lost 3-2 in overtime to the New York Islanders on Thursday night - just the NHL-worst Islanders' second road victory since Thanksgiving.
"We sometimes give off the impression that we look like we are a deer trapped in the headlights," Gainey said. "... The other team is taking advantage of our hesitation and our lack of assertiveness and confidence to play simple plays."
In the opposite crease from Brodeur on Saturday will be Jaroslav Halak, who has just 28 career wins - 16 of them coming this season, as he's relieved Carey Price due to injury and inconsistent play.
Halak hasn't played since Feb. 28 due to the flu, but he's won four straight starts, with a 1.97 GAA over that span.
Alex Kovalev, Montreal's highest-scoring forward, has also had the illness this week and could miss his second straight game.
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