Goalie Alex Nedeljkovic on Detroit Red Wings’ playoff hopes: ‘We’re not out of it yet’

Detroit Free Press

SEATTLE — As the Detroit Red Wings count down the days until they’re past the trade deadline, one guy who isn’t going anywhere has sparked renewed purpose.

Alex Nedeljkovic enters Saturday’s game against the expansion Seattle Kraken coming off a confidence-boosting performance, one that was welcome after a rough patch. His 43-save outing against the Vancouver Canucks propelled the Wings to a 1-0 victory and ended a six-game losing skid. Nedeljkovic started three of those games and appeared in five, posting a 4.11 goals-against average and .876 save percentage that undermined his usual swagger.

“I felt good these last few weeks,” Nedeljkovic said. “It’s a combination of maybe trying a little too hard, being a little too hard on myself and not getting a few bounces here and there.”

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The Wings (25-29-7) have seen a six-point deficit in the pursuit of a wild-card spot grow to 21 points. Players looked and sounded frustrated as the losses piled up. There was blame to go around, but goaltenders bear a brunt that skaters don’t: They can’t hide behind anyone.

“You want to win,” Nedeljkovic said. “We were in a playoff race for a long time, for longer than this team has been in one in a while. To see it slip away in a matter of four or five games, really it’s kind of very disappointing, especially with the start we had.

“There’s still a lot of games left. You never know what can happen. We’re not out of it yet. We’ll see what happens going forward.”

In addition to trying to move back up in the standings, the Wings are dealing with the likelihood they’ll lose a teammate or two before Monday’s trade deadline. Their list of pending unrestricted free agents includes defensemen Nick Leddy, Marc Staal and Troy Stecher; forwards Vladislav Namestnikov and Sam Gagner and goaltender Thomas Greiss.

While it affects their locker room, making a move is general manager Steve Yzerman’s domain. The Wings need to focus on carrying the momentum from the Canucks game into the Kraken game and give themselves a chance to win consecutive games for the first time since Feb. 9-12.

“I think we have to just take this energy and get back to playing with some swagger,” Nedeljkovic said. “Guys were making plays, and we were confident with the puck and confident with what we were doing, and even confident knowing that if a guy made a mistake, somebody was going to be there to back him up. We have to keep playing with that. It doesn’t mean be reckless and toe-drag across the ice or try to take guys one-on-five, it just means playing smart and having confidence in yourself and make plays that you know you can make.”

Contact Helene St. James at hstjames@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @helenestjames. Read more on the Detroit Red Wings and sign up for our Red Wings newsletter. Her book, The Big 50: The Detroit Red Wings is available from AmazonBarnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail. 

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