Detroit Red Wings: Alex Nedeljkovic trying to right the ship with Griffins

Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports /

On Wednesday, the Detroit Red Wings sent goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic to Grand Rapids on a conditioning stint.

Nedeljkovic has been struggling for most of the 2022-23 season in his role, backing up Ville Husso. Still, the organization hopes consistent playing time with the Griffins will help him gain some confidence back, and hopefully, he can return to form.

Last season, Nedeljkovic performed exceptionally well during his first year with the organization. Despite splitting time with veteran netminder Thomas Greiss, he was the clear top option and performed like a legitimate NHL no. 1 goaltender. The 26-year-old started 52 games last season, posting a 20-24-9 record backed by a 0.901 save percentage and a 3.31 goals against average; not bad considering the state of the Detroit Red Wings.

Nedeljkovic’s coming out party happened in 2020-21 as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes as he posted an incredible league-leading goals against average of 1.90 and 0.932 save percentage over 23 starts. The Hurricanes also turned to Nedeljkovic in the postseason, where he made nine starts going 4-5-0 but maintained stellar numbers. During that postseason run, Nedeljkovic posted a 0.920 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.17.

The Detroit Red Wings are hoping Alex Nedeljkovic can regain his form with the Grand Rapids Griffins.

The soon-to-be 27-year-old has proven that he can be a reliable NHL backstop, but nothing has gone right for him so far in 2022-23, but head coach Derek Lalonde recently mentioned that the organization isn’t giving up on the netminder just yet.

"“We haven’t given up on Ned,” Lalonde said Wednesday morning at Little Caesars Arena, shortly after the Wings announced Nedeljkovic had been assigned to the minors for a conditioning stint.“I don’t have any problem saying that. We would like to keep things private when we discuss players and the big picture, but we have not given up on Ned. We want to see him hopefully get his game in order and hopefully reevaluate from there.”“The good thing about GR is I think they play six or seven games in a short time, all at home,” Lalonde said."

The expectation heading into the season was that Husso and Nedeljkovic would split time for the Red Wings, at least until one of them separated themself with their play. That separation became evident just a couple of weeks into the season. Husso, other than the odd stinker, has performed incredibly well this season for the Red Wings and often performs as Detroit’s first star in most of the team’s victories.

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Heading into Wednesday’s contest with the New Jersey Devils, Husso had posted a 12-6-5 record which included three shutouts to go with a good 0.908 save percentage and 2.86 goals against average.

Nedeljkovic has not played for Detroit since December 8th. The backup role has gone to Magnus Hellberg, who the Detroit Red Wings claimed off waivers from the Seattle Kraken. Hellberg made one start with Detroit late last season, and the 31-year-old must possess something that caught the eye of general manager Steve Yzerman.

As of right now, the Detroit Red Wings are content with carrying three goaltenders on the active roster, but as the club gets healthy over the coming weeks, something will need to give. Right now, the backup goaltending job is Hellberg’s to lose. Hellberg is 2-2 with a save percentage of 0.897 and a goals against of 2.74 in a short stint with the Red Wings. The save percentage is nothing to write home about, but he’s who Lalonde turned to when Husso was unable to go due to an illness playing eight periods in four days.

Expect to see Hellberg get another opportunity before Nedeljkovic’s conditioning stint is complete in Grand Rapids, allowing Yzerman and Lalonde to make a concrete decision on the position.