NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- After all of his accomplishments and accolades, Martin Brodeur was still able to crack jokes prior to making his first start with the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.
Brodeur, 42, was asked how does it feel to be in a Blues uniform.
"More and more comfortable," Brodeur said, before joking. "I think if they gave me a jersey that fits me, it would be perfect."
Is it too big?
"Yeah, it's too big," Brodeur said with a big grin that got the surrounding media to laugh. "They gave me Panger's practice jersey."
Such was life for Brodeur in the morning and early afternoon hours before making an NHL appearance for another team other than the New Jersey Devils when the Blues play the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena.
Brodeur, has a record of 688-394-105-71 in 21 seasons with the Devils. His 124 career shutouts are first in NHL history. He won the Stanley Cup three times, the Calder Trophy in 1993-94 and the Vezina Trophy four times.
Now he will wear a Blues jersey looking to make a mark and write another chapter in his illustrious career.
"I feel good," Brodeur said. "It's important for me to go out there and feel a game situation and how I'm going to go through this thing. My expectations are always the same, to do as good as I can with myself. There's a lot of things you can't control in hockey. The only thing you can control is how you prepare yourself and the effort that you put out there. That's the way I've been playing all my career. It won't change because of the situation."
The Blues, who lost against the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 on Wednesday, were in a position to start Brodeur on Thursday after a tough game against a tough division opponent the previous night and another one facing them with the Predators on Thursday.
"I think we have to be cautiously optimistic that he's going to play well and more importantly, we're going to play committed in front of him," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, who told Brodeur on Wednesday afternoon when he would play. "I think it's two-fold. He's going to want to play well, but we've got to play well and really hard in front of him because we've got a rested opponent, we've got a heck of a hockey club we're playing, a team that's been in first place in the division really since the first week of the schedule and everybody's been chasing them. They've got a great home record (10-1-1), so we know we've got to be on top of our game no matter who's in goal just to win it.
"I think it's more about us than it is about Marty. There's going to be times when you don't play for a lot and for extended period of time, it's everything. It's traffic, it's timing, all that stuff. We're just going to have to live through that stuff and get his first game under his belt and move on."
"I've thought about this for a week now," Hitchcock added. "I looked at this is a very significant game, and I felt like yesterday was going to be very hard on the goalie, which it was. There were a lot of challenges for both goaltenders and I knew mentally it would be a tiring game and I looked at that we needed a fresh goalie in today. It turned out that way."
Blues teammates expect Brodeur to bring a calming influence onto the ice.
"I think for a guy like him, he's almost going to be more comforting for us," defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "He's probably going to feel more comfortable in there than we're really expecting and I think that'll put us at ease. It's not really trying to do too much. It's not trying to block every shot for him. You want him to see everything and take away those second chances. Those are the ones that fall on us.
"I grew up watching him practice on the weekends at Southbound Arena [in New Jersey]. To see him here in the same locker room and be able to play with him is going to be a blast."
The Predators, tied for the Central Division lead in points (34) with the Blues, will give the proper attention to who the opponent in goal is.
"When a guy like Marty and his career comes back and enters the game ... I guess the story will be written on the ice tonight as to the outcome," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "Certainly we've got a lot of respect for him."
What does Brodeur expect? He knows he will have a better idea at the conclusion of the game Thursday.
"Until I play a game, I'll have a better judge of where I'm at," Brodeur said. "It's a great opportunity for me tonight.
"There will be adjustments. I've never played beside ... I think I played with Jax and Bouw a little bit in different competitions, but nothing like NHL hockey and nothing like Hitch's system also. For me, it's going to be patience, especially early on just to look at the routes the guys are taking defensively because I like to play the puck, But if we're going to cause chaos all the time because there are two guys in the corner playing with the puck, I'm going to kind of have to adjust myself and watch a couple tapes and talk to some of the coaches about it. I don't want to change my game, but I think I'm going to need to adjust a little bit."
Does bringing Brodeur into a locker room that has a plethora of younger players that may be more in awe of a teammate and his accolades rather than treat him as just "one of the guys?" Hitchcock doesn't think so.
"Any time you can bring rings into your locker room, it's a big advantage," Hitchcock said. "I think rings and championships really quantify why we play the game. Any time you can bring in a guy like that or anybody that's won before has a huge impact in a positive direction inside your locker room.
"I think the players appreciate the joy of playing when you see a guy like that that has so much fun just being part of a team. An older player, you can hardly wait to get off the ice. He stays on forever. First day on the job, he picks up pucks. It makes you want to play for the guy. I think the players really appreciate when you see a veteran player that has so much fun in all the other parts of the game other than the actual competition and the game between seven and nine-thirty. There's other things that he brings that you see in elite players that are impressive and I think that rubs the players the right way."
And for those Devils fans that will see something surreal Thursday that tune in, Brodeur again joked: "I think they're going to recognize me. I'm not going in hiding."
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The Blues (16-7-2) held an optional skate Thursday before facing the Predators (16-6-2).
The only skaters were forwards Chris Porter, Magnus Paajarvi and Joakim Lindstrom and defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Ian Cole as well as goalies Brodeur and Jake Allen.
Defenseman Petteri Lindbohm, who was recalled Thursday from the Chicago Wolves of the American Hockey League, will be inserted into the lineup.
Bouwmeester, who's missed five games with a groin injury, skated aggressively but will miss his sixth consecutive game.
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Hitchcock had some very telling comments regarding center Paul Stastny, who began the season fast before sustaining an injured shoulder that caused him to miss eight games.
Stastny, who signed a four-year, $28 million contract as an unrestricted free agent, has three points (two goals) in 13 games since returning from injury.
"He needs to play better," Hitchcock said of Stastny when asked if his slow start.
Hitchcock was asked in what areas. He didn't respond to anything specific. "He needs to play better. We need more from him."
Is it frustrating as a coach: "No. We just need more from him. It's not frustrating. It is what it is. We just need more from him."
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The Blues' projected lineup (there will be changes so this will be updated during warmups):
Alexander Steen-David Backes-T.J. Oshie
Patrik Berglund-Paul Stastny-Ryan Reaves
Steve Ott-Maxim Lapierre
Barret Jackman-Alex Pietrangelo
Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Chris Butler-Ian Cole
Martin Brodeur will make his Blues debut and start in goal. Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches are Magnus Paajarvi, Joakim Lindstrom and Chris Porter. Lindbohm gives the Blues seven defensemen tonight. Brian Elliott (knee) is out but on the trip rehabbing. Jay Bouwmeester (groin) will miss a sixth straight game.
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The Predators' projected lineup:
Filip Forsberg-Mike Ribeiro-James Neal
Colin Wilson-Calle Jarnkrok-Craig Smith
Olli Jokinen-Mike Fisher-Matt Cullen
Eric Nystrom-Gabriel Bourque-Taylor Beck
Roman Josi-Shea Weber
Anton Volchenkov-Seth Jones
Mattias Ekholm-Ryan Ellis
Pekka Rinne will start in goal. Carter Hutton will be the backup.
The healthy scratch is Victor Bartley. Former Blue Derek Roy (upper body), Viktor Stalberg (lower body) and Paul Gaustad (lower body) have injuries and won't play.