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Saturday, September 11, 2004
Luongo starts in Brodeur's place

Associated Press

TORONTO -- Martin Brodeur missed Canada's semifinal game in the World Cup of Hockey tournament on Saturday night because of a sore wrist.

Brodeur was injured Wednesday late in a 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Slovakia when he made an awkward glove save on a shot from center ice by defenseman Jaroslav Obsut.

The puck struck him on the underside of his wrist, forcing his arm to jam back toward his body.

"I woke up this morning, and there was not a lot of improvement," Brodeur said just hours before Saturday night's elimination game against the Czech Republic. "It didn't feel good enough for me to go out and practice."

There was a notable groan from the partisan Canadian crowd when it was announced that Brodeur wouldn't play for the first time in the tournament.

Canada coach Pat Quinn tabbed Roberto Luongo to start in Brodeur's place.

Luongo was 25-33-14 in 72 games with the Florida Panthers last season, but he posted a 2.43 goals-against average and .931 save percentage. He was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, won by New Jersey's Brodeur for a second straight season.

"It's a hockey game," Luongo said Saturday morning. "If I get a chance to play, it's going to be a great opportunity."

Jose Theodore of Montreal suited up behind Luongo.

"When you pick the team, you don't pick a guy and say 'Well, he's a good backup guy' or 'He's good for Marty,"' Team Canada executive director Wayne Gretzky said. "We said let's pick the best guys. We feel confident that if they play, they'll play well."

Brodeur had an MRI on Thursday that revealed a sprain but showed no structural damage. He also sent the results to Devils officials to review.

Through last season, Brodeur had started 133 straight playoff games with New Jersey -- putting him only behind Patrick Roy's NHL-record 136. In 11 NHL seasons, he estimated missing only a handful of games due to injury.

But having accomplished backups behind him makes the decision not to play a little easier.

"That's a huge part," Brodeur said. "If I would be by myself in New Jersey, I don't know if I would play but it would be a lot different.

"I don't think it's fair for Team Canada to jeopardize a chance of going to the final because I want to be in there. I don't think I'll be able to play 100 percent if I go in there."

Brodeur practiced briefly on Friday, and his teammates avoided shooting at his injured glove hand. His hope is that Canada will advance without him, and the extra rest will enable him to play in the championship game against Finland on Tuesday.

Canada has rolled through its first four games in the tournament, with Brodeur leading the way with a 0.75 goals-against average. He allowed only three goals on 100 shots.

"Marty is the best goalie in the world," said Czech Republic star Jaromir Jagr, who will start despite an abdominal injury. "Luongo is a good goalie also, but Marty's Marty."