The puck chopped here

DON BRENNAN -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A betting man will tell you the over-under at the Continental Airlines Arena was real, real low last night.

For one thing, both the Senators and Devils laid goose eggs in their previous outing, while New Jersey, in fact, was coming off two goal-less games for the first time since 1983.

For another, the goalies staring 180 feet down the ice from each other will not only become automatic Hockey Hall of Famers upon retirement, but, after a combined 26 seasons in the NHL between them, are still considered the top two goalies in the world by most.

Finally, Dominik Hasek and Martin Brodeur have battled each other to a 0-0 draw before.

It happened on Dec. 23, 1996, on the very sheet of ice they worked last night. Hasek, then a Buffalo Sabre, stopped 37 shots through 65 minutes of action, including overtime. So did Brodeur, who was just 23 years old at the time.

As both like to keep shutout pucks for souvenirs, the fresh-faced Brodeur came up with an idea. It was to saw this one in two.

"I signed his half and he signed mine," Hasek said yesterday. "I still have my half."

Brodeur has his, too. Big on sentiment and tradition, he has kept the goalie stick from every one of his NHL victories, which total 428 following last night's 5-3 win.

We're told he also keeps all the pucks.

That would give him a collection of at least 4271/2, right?

Starts and Stops:

Brodeur, who recently signed a contract extension that will keep him in New Jersey until he's 40, is in awe of what Hasek has done at the same age. "He's been tremendous all season," said Brodeur. "For him to not play a year (and only 14 games in the last three) and then come in and dominate the way he has is unbelievable. He's playing with a top team, but you still have to perform, and he's doing it." ... Brodeur also writes a regular column for the Journal de Montreal, which also appears in the Sun. "Haven't seen you around the office much lately," Cheapseats told Marty yesterday, prompting a chuckle from the Devils star. "I've been tied up playing hockey," explained Brodeur. Guess the boss accepts that excuse. Might have to try it myself.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm:

The sign that reads No Standing Anytime outside the Westin Times Square also means No Stopping For NHL Players, as the Senators team bus driver was reminded in no uncertain terms by a member of NYPD's finest yesterday. In fact, when the last two players tried to board, they were prevented from doing so by the cranky cop. Hence, it wound up costing Antoine Vermette and Anton Volchenkov $75 for a cab to the morning skate at Continental Airlines Arena ... Only in New York, eh? Members of the Senators brass dined at the famous Elaine's on Tuesday. At the table beside them was Buzz Aldrin, the astronaut. At the table on the other side was Uma Thurman. Meanwhile, sitting beside me at the ESPN Zone bar was a guy staring at a glass of coke who had a bag of clothes near his feet. Smelled like both he and they hadn't been washed in some time ... Only in New York, eh II? Walking down Broadway in the middle of afternoon, the temperatures flirting with the 6-9C range, we spot the Naked Cowboy of Howard Stern fame. He's not exactly naked. He's wearing a big cowboy hat, boots and white jockeys. He's also playing a guitar and singing. You wouldn't even catch Ray Emery doing that ... Only in New York, eh III? Where else can you purchase a T-shirt with the words "(Bleep) You, You (Bleepin') (Bleep)"? And for a mere $17?

Ice Chips:

The Devils are hoping to have their first sellout of the season Friday when they honour former captain Scott Stevens. That would put them just 21 behind the Senators ... The Continental Airlines Arena is 25 years old. It has wireless Internet, as does most every other NHL rink, as did the lobby of the hotel we stayed at Tuesday night, even the restaurant at the Bell Sensplex ... darn near everywhere you go except the beautiful Scotiabank Place, which you'll remember as being in the heart of hi-tech land. It's not like the know-how isn't there -- wireless Internet was present for two Senators homes games this season. But just like that, it's gone again. Go figure.

SOME THINGS WORTH NOTING...

COACH SPEAK: Unhappy with his playing time this year, W Vaclav Varada sat in the stands with coach Bryan Murray before yesterday's morning skate. Varada, who has spent much time on the fourth line, was bumped up to the third for the game. Murray says he wants to evaluate the play of many during the next three games. "We're getting close to the break," said Murray. "We want to solidify the lines as best we can." Of Varada, he added: "It's hard to be the type of player he has to be and not play more. He has to be a player who makes contact, to be a disturber, and he has to challenge himself to be a very good defensive player, and just go to the net. Hopefully, this three-game sequence will give him a better chance to show his stuff."


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