By Sean Hartnett
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It would take a truly special netminder to unseat the winningest goaltender in NHL history.
Martin Brodeur played an unmistakable role in delivering the three Stanley Cup championship banners that hang proudly from the rafters at the Prudential Center. He’s been the rock who the Devils’ successes have been built on for the past 20 years.
Undoubtedly, his legendary No. 30 will one day be retired alongside “Mr. Devil” Ken Daneyko’s No. 3, inspirational captain Scott Stevens’ No. 4 and elite defenseman Scott Niedermayer’s No. 27.
Brodeur has — in his own words — relinquished the starting goalie job. He confirmed to the Newark Star-Ledger’s Rich Chere on Wednesday that Cory Schneider “is in the net now to stay.” The time has come for the 27-year-old Schneider to weave his own legacy into the Devils’ storied history.
Schneider has started the 2013-14 season in spectacular fashion despite the Devils’ 1-5-3 record. He understands the responsibility that comes with carrying the hopes of an organization that has always set the bar high. The Devils achieved a rare dynasty era between 1995-2003, with three titles during that period.
“There’s definitely a lot of pride in this organization,” Schneider said. “A storied history, some great Hall of Fame-caliber players. I think that’s a good thing. Tradition sort of breeds a culture. Success does as well. I think they expect a certain standard. Coming in here and being reminded of that holds you to a higher standard.”
Schneider is 1-3-1 with a 2.21 goals-against average and a save percentage of. 917. Nearly every move he’s made between the pipes at Prudential Center has been greeted with rapturous chants of “Cor-y, Cor-y.”
It’s now the duty of the 41-year-old Brodeur to push Schneider as hard as he can and offer as much support as possible to the Devils’ new No. 1 goaltender.
“There are times when we’ve played teams that I don’t really know about, and never faced,” Schneider said. “Marty has given me some details on what guys and teams in general like to do. Overall, he’s been approachable. He’s been supportive and everything you can ask for — for a guy who’s done as much as he has.”
Brodeur is 0-2-2 with a 3.40 GAA and .865 save percentage. He did not speak to the media following Thursday’s practice.
DEBOER NOT READY TO HAND THE KEYS OVER TO SCHNEIDER
Head coach Pete DeBoer wasn’t 100 percent ready to proclaim this the “Schneider Era.”
Despite Brodeur admitting the top job belong to Schneider, DeBoer won’t entirely count him out of the picture. Brodeur’s workload will certainly be decreased, though DeBoer maintains that the goalie will play an important role.
“Last time I looked, Marty has not retired yet,” DeBoer said. “I’m sure Marty is going to play some games here and play a role for us. We’re going day-by-day. Both have handled it like a pro.”
ROBERTO LUONGO HAILS EX-TEAMMATE SCHNEIDER
Vancouver Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo enjoyed an outstanding relationship with Schneider during their years competing for playing time in Vancouver.
“He’s not one of those ‘weird goalies’ as people say. He’s very laid-back, a normal guy,” Luongo said. “He’s easy to get along with. At the same time, he’s very dedicated to what he does. That’s why he’s one of the best in the league already. Put all that together — and you get a pretty good goalie.”
ELIAS SET TO RETURN AFTER ILLNESS
Alternate captain Patrik Elias confirmed that he will return to the lineup tonight against Vancouver following a bout with food poisoning.
Schneider understands the difference that Elias makes when he’s healthy and in the lineup.
“He’s been quietly one of the best players over the past ten or fifteen years,” Schneider said. “I think he’s under appreciated throughout the league. I don’t think I realized how good he was until I got here and saw him in person. It’s been tough without him. We’re happy to have him back.”
Schneider praised Elias’ crucial contributions on special teams. The 37-year-old has an uncanny ability to read the ice faster than the majority of players around the league.
“His ability to read plays on the penalty kill and on defense, just the way he anticipates and sees plays developing allows him to get a jump on guys,” Schneider said. “It makes him a dangerous player. Especially shorthanded.”
Elias has recorded two goals and two assists through seven games thus far during the 2013-14 season.
SALVADOR FLIES TO ALBERTA
Captain Bryce Salvador flew to Alberta to deal with the death of a family member. The Devils recalled defenseman Eric Gelinas from Albany of the AHL. Gelinas will be in the lineup tonight against Vancouver. He was paired with Adam Larsson during Thursday’s morning skate.
Follow Sean on Twitter @HartnettHockey
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