Martin Brodeur says he'll be backup

NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur will back up Johan Hedberg Friday night when the team faces the New York Rangers.

Brodeur also said he is healthy enough to start if called upon Saturday night against the Carolina Hurricanes, though he also indicated he probably won't play.

"I'm just happy I'm back and like I said, I need to practice, I need to get back in game shape a bit as far as seeing the puck and moving around, and you do that with team practices, not by yourself," said Brodeur, who was activated from the injured reserve list Friday after missing the past four games with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

"I only had one practice and one morning skate, so I'm OK to play, but to be on top I might need a couple more practices. But like I said, if called upon I'm healthy enough to get in there."

Brodeur's statements come just one day after he practiced for the first time since spraining his knee Feb. 6 and said that he was "not ready at all."

Coach Jacques Lemaire was noncommittal when asked if Brodeur would play Saturday.

"We'll take care of tonight," Lemaire said. "Tonight is plenty for us."

Hedberg, 37, has been stellar in Brodeur's absence, going 4-0 with a 1.46 goals-against average. Friday's start will be his fifth straight.

"Should be good [to have Marty and Heddy back at the same time]," Lemaire said. "Hopefully Heddy will keep playing the way he's been playing. He's been playing really well. Marty right now he hasn't played a game for a long time, so it's not at his best for sure. But it's good that he comes back."

Brodeur, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, retroactive to Feb. 6, so that he could return whenever he was healthy, practiced with the full team Thursday.

"Yesterday was a big day for me," Brodeur said. "I just wanted to make sure I felt good afterwards, and I did. This morning's been good, so I should be all right now.

"You gotta warm it up pretty good just like anything when you come back from an injury. But I was able to do things that I've been able to do, things that I would do in games that makes me feel like I'm OK and feel good enough to be backup. And if called upon, I'd be ready to go."

The 38-year-old Brodeur, who is 13-19-2 with a 2.74 GAA and an .898 save percentage, says he always expects to play every game when he's healthy, but he understands if Hedberg continues to start most of the time.

"My attitude about that won't change," Brodeur said. "But the thing is is Heddy was brought in for a reason and we're seeing it now. When I get back, we'll see how it goes, but definitely he's been writing a good case for himself."

Brodeur missed six games during the 2005-06 season with the same injury, but says he doesn't recall it.

"I've read that, I just don't remember it," Brodeur said. "So it must not have been that bad."

Hedberg, who is 10-10-2 overall with a 2.63 GAA and a .905 save percentage, continues to be very supportive of his teammate and wants him to return as well, even if it causes a potential controversy.

"Obviously, he's a big part of this team and has been for a very long time," Hedberg said Thursday. "We're talking about the best goaltender to ever play this game. If he's ready to come back, then he's ready and he'll play. When they tell me to play, I'll play."

The Devils are currently the hottest team in the NHL, having won a season-high five straight games and 13 of 16, going 13-1-2 record in that stretch to climb back into the playoff race. They trail the Hurricanes by 12 points for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"I think guys are feeling good about themselves, but I think we're all realistic that it's going to be a difficult task to overcome these points," Brodeur said of his team's playoff chances. "I think guys are pretty upbeat and it's a huge difference from what we've had to go through in the beginning of the season."

The Devils announced that Mike McKenna, who had backed up Hedberg in Brodeur's absence, has been sent down to Albany of the AHL.

Mike Mazzeo is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.