Many times throughout Martin Brodeur's Hall of Fame-bound, 17-season career with the Devils, he's been the goaltender on a hot streak while his backup has sat and waited dutifully for his next start.

Now, Brodeur is the one sitting respectfully and waiting while Johan Hedberg, for the time being, is carrying the load in net and helping the Devils keep their resuscitated playoff hopes alive.

Hedberg will start his eighth consecutive game tonight when the Devils take on the Tampa Bay Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum.

Hedberg has won seven straight games, allowing seven total goals. He has allowed only one goal in the last three, posting 1-0 shutouts over the Rangers a week ago and in Dallas on Tuesday.

"He's been playing unbelievable and it's only fair for the team if there's a guy that's playing really well," Brodeur said of Hedberg starting tonight. "Unfortunately I got hurt. It happens. [GM] Lou [Lamoriello] brought him in for a reason and it's paying dividends right now the way he's been playing. I'll get back in the net eventually."

Brodeur hasn't played since leaving after the first period of a 4-1 win in Montreal on Feb. 6 because of a sprained MCL in his right knee. He has dressed as Hedberg's backup the last three games and was healthy enough to start Tuesday, but Devils coach Jacques Lemaire decided not to change starting goalies during a winning streak.

The Devils have won eight in a row and are 16-1-2 in their last 19 to pull within nine points of Carolina for the final playoff spot in the East (with a game in hand). A ninth consecutive victory tonight would equal the third longest winning streak in team history.