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Devils battling minor injuries; the future of Devils goaltending

Adam Larsson has played big minutes for the Devils,
despite having only played 4 NHL games.

 The 3-1-0 New Jersey Devils have won three consecutive games since dropping their Opening Night contest, 3-0 to Philadelphia.  In the process, rookie defenseman and 2011 fourth overall draft pick Adam Larsson has received big minutes.  According to hockeyreference.com, Larsson is averaging 24:14 of ice-time per game through four games.  He was struck in his leg during a practice and missed an additional practice session following the team's recent victory in Nashville.  Larsson returned to practice today.

Martin Brodeur has yet to win a game this season.  After Johan Hedberg started and won the team's second game, 4-2 over Carolina, Brodeur started against the Los Angeles Kings.  He allowed and early goal in the first period, but then made a series of acrobatic saves to keep the deficit at just one goal.  In the process, he injured his shoulder, and left the game after the second period.  The Devils rallied to win that game in a shootout, and prospect Keith Kinkaid was called up in an emergency role to back up Hedberg in another shootout victory over Nashville.

Kinkaid was returned to Albany, but Brodeur has yet to return to practice.  Kinkaid has now been re-called and may back up Hedberg as the Devils host the San Jose Sharks on Friday.  Hedberg is 3-0-0 this season, including two shootout wins while stopping all four shooters he's faced.  He sports a goals against average of 1.41 in three games (two starts) and a save percentage of .945.  Hedberg also won 15 games for the Devils last season, due in large part to another Brodeur injury.

The other injury the Devils have dealt with since the summer is that of Travis Zajac.  Zajac had surgery on his achillies tendon following an off-ice injury during the summer.  His franchise record streak of over 400 consecutive games played ended on Opening Night, and he will likely be out until January 2012.  The Winnipeg native posted just 44 points last season, but had seasons of 62 and 67 points before 2010-11.  Zajac was the Devils' best offensive center during the past three seasons, and usually played on Zach Parise's line before Parise's season-ending injury last season.

More on Brodeur: The Devils could be considering the future of goaltending within the organization, as Brodeur enters the final year of his contract.  The Devils could choose to part ways with the 39-year old future Hall of Famer after this season, which would mean finding his long-term replacement.  Perhaps the answer lies within the organization, as prospects such as Kinkaid, Maxime Clermont, Scott Wedgewood and the more seasoned Jeff Frazee are all options, however the Devils have a surplus of talent in their minor league system, particularly on the blue line.

Youngsters Mark Fayne, Adam Larsson and Mark Fraser are all on the NHL roster already, but also in the organization are former first round draft pick Matt Corrente, Matt Taormina, Brandon Burlon, Eric Gelinas, Harry Young, and currently suspended Michigan Wolverine and U.S. Junior star Jonathan Merrill.  The Devils could choose to package a trade together including some of those defensemen, in addition to a current NHL player.  David Clarkson has been the subject of trade talks for many years.  Mattias Tedenby, Jacob Josefson and Adam Henrique could be of high value to other teams, although any of those forwards could be long-term fixtures on the Devils roster.

There are certainly quality goaltenders that could be traded.  Vancouver's backup, Cory Schneider, may be ready for a starting role.  Nashville's Anders Lindback, Toronto's Jonas Gustavsson, Los Angeles' Jonathan Bernier and Boston's Tuukka Rask could also be moved at some point, however Tim Thomas is older than the other teams' starting goalies (Luongo in Vancouver, Rinne in Nashville, Reimer in Toronto, Quick in Los Angeles).

Of course, anything regarding Devils goaltending is pure speculation at this point, but Martin Brodeur won't be around forever.  At some point, likely sooner than later, it will be time for a change in New Jersey.

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