Martin Brodeur is getting close, but Johan Hedberg is expected to be in net again for the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night.
He may not need much offensive help against the punchless New York Rangers.
The Devils look to avoid a three-game losing streak as they go for their fifth consecutive win over the visiting Rangers.
Brodeur, who has missed 12 games with a pinched nerve in his neck and upper back, finally returned to practice Monday. New Jersey (13-10-6) has gone 3-7-2 without him, and he won't be starting again just yet.
"If I am on the bench that means I am going to be OK to play," said Brodeur, who is 8-2-3 with a 2.27 goals-against average this season. "I guess I might not be able to start a game because I don't think my game is there, but adrenaline takes over in these types of situations and I'll be fine if something happens."
The 40-year-old netminder is hoping to start Thursday at Carolina, but coach Peter DeBoer may feel comfortable using him in a pinch Tuesday. He has a 1.74 GAA during a four-game winning streak against the Rangers, including the final three games of last year's Eastern Conference finals.
Hedberg needed only 16 saves to earn a 1-0 home win in his most recent matchup with New York on Feb. 18, 2011.
He made 20 saves in Saturday's 2-1 loss to Montreal, a day after he stopped 21 through overtime in a 2-1 shootout defeat at Philadelphia.
"You look at the last two games, we played really well," Brodeur said. "We stayed in games and 'Heddy' played really well, but we have not much to show for. That's the type of season we are going through, and a lot of teams are going the same. I don't know if I would have made a difference. Nobody knows that."
The Rangers (14-12-2) are also sputtering offensively, totaling three regulation goals in their past four games. They snapped a three-game slide with Monday's 2-1 shootout win over Carolina, but got only Derek Stepan's tally on 36 shots through OT - 30 coming after a listless opening period.
"It means nothing if we don't go into Jersey and play the same way," captain Ryan Callahan said. "We have to go to Jersey and show that kind of effort we did in the second and third, and pucks will start going in for us, too.
"There's no concern in this room. We know we have guys in here that can score goals, and it's going to come."
Rick Nash has gone without a goal in five straight games after scoring six in his previous five contests. He has a minus-10 rating in seven career games against New Jersey - all losses for his teams - with his only goal coming in 2004.
Marian Gaborik has one point in his past 12 matchups with the Devils, including the playoffs. He has only one goal and a minus-7 rating in his last 15 games overall.
Stepan has been a rare bright spot with five goals and five assists in a 10-game stretch. His goal Monday snapped New York's scoreless stretch of 120 minutes, 55 seconds.
The Associated Press News Service
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