NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The biggest decision New Jersey Devils coach Pete DeBoer had to make heading into his club’s game at Yankee Stadium was whether to go with his surefire Hall of Fame goalie or the guy who has been hot lately.
Once Martin Brodeur got the starting nod, the longtime No. 1 New Jersey netminder had to figure out just how many layers of clothing to wear in the cold and snow. He was warmer than expected Saturday and planned to shed a few layers for Sunday’s game against the New York Rangers.
Even though Cory Schneider has been on quite a roll, DeBoer is turning to Brodeur, the face of the franchise for the better part of two decades. No one was surprised by the choice, not even Schneider, who is 5-1-2 with a 0.96 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in eight starts dating to Dec. 28.
Still, DeBoer turned to Brodeur.
“It really is an easy decision from a right thing to do perspective,” he said. “His career, 20 years with the Devils, what he’s done, and he’s played some excellent hockey for us this year.”
Brodeur was reluctant to talk about his legacy and what he has accomplished with the Devils.
“I want to deserve to play because of the way I play now, not what I did in the past,” the 41-year-old Brodeur said. “I’m happy to play a game. It’s been a while. It’s been over a week.”
Brodeur understands the significance of taking part in an outdoor game, especially this one in such a historic place. Brodeur has played in only two of New Jersey’s past eight games — winning one and losing one.
“I don’t make the decision. I would have accepted it one way or the other,” Brodeur said. “We’re in a situation that sometimes we get these games that mean a lot to different people for different reasons. I guess they felt it meant a lot to me, and they put me in.”
The decision was even easier at the other end of Yankee Stadium where Rangers coach Alain Vigneault went with his unquestioned No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist, instead of young backup Cam Talbot, who has had a fine season.
Lundqvist has experience with playing outside — having backstopped the Rangers’ victory over the Flyers in Philadelphia two years ago. He also knows Yankee Stadium a bit, having attended ballgames there, but the big ballpark in the Bronx never looked like this in the summer.
“It was very special to walk out there today, but I think tomorrow when you hear the crowd … you get goose bumps,” he said. “It’s a feeling you’re looking for when you play the game. It gives you a lot of adrenaline.
“You try to enjoy that moment, but at the same time you need to be focused on what we have to do. It’s an important game for both teams, and that makes it even more special.”
Lundqvist also said he felt warm on the ice. The high temperature Sunday is expected to be around 20, a bit chillier than Saturday, but under sunny skies. Game time is set for 12:30 p.m., so there is a good chance it will be played during the warmest part of the day.
That will be much different Wednesday when the Rangers take on the rival New York Islanders under the lights at night when the temperature could be single digits.
The Rangers, the second-place team in the Metropolitan Division, come in having lost two straight at home after a 9-2-1 surge. The Devils, 5-1-3 in their past nine, are tied for fifth but are only two points behind.
“It’s a big event for everybody that’s in the organization, but at the end of the day, we’re just playing hockey,” Brodeur said.
Several Rangers tossed around a baseball near the perimeter of the rink that stretches from the first base line to the third base line and covers the majority of the infield.
The snow picked up in intensity as the day wore on. The Devils, as the designated home team, took to the ice first. Both teams had family members in tow, and the players were joined on the ice by their relatives once practice was over.
“This was the day where you get to enjoy it, you get to take everything in,” Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. “We’re all professionals in here and we know when we come to the rink tomorrow there’s two points on the line.”
Devils star Jaromir Jagr, another 41-year-old player, doesn’t have the best memories of playing outdoors. He was with the Rangers back in 2012 and didn’t come out unscathed in the elements in Philadelphia.
He acknowledged even being a bit envious of the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, who were slated to play in the warmth of Southern California inside Dodger Stadium on Saturday night.
“If I had a choice to play here or in L.A., I would probably choose L.A. Nothing against the Yankees or New York,” Jagr said. “I had a bad experience two years ago. I got injured in the first period, and it was the same weather.
“It was pretty cold, and I think it’s a lot tougher for the muscles to get warmed up.”
The Devils are using the Yankees clubhouse, and even though this is a new version of Yankee Stadium, the presence of those who made the original building famous can be felt.
“When I walked in the Yankees dressing room, I was in awe,” DeBoer said.
“We all feel very lucky to be here,” he said. “Personally, to pay some respect to the Yankees organization — pinstripe pads and mask and stuff like that — it’s a cool thing.”
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