Derek Lalonde: Detroit Red Wings ‘haven’t given up’ on Alex Nedeljkovic

Detroit Free Press

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Derek Lalonde said the Detroit Red Wings still have faith in Alex Nedeljkovic, even as he is vulnerable to losing his job as backup goaltender in the NHL.

“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.”

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Lalonde said no decision had been made on how long Nedeljkovic would stay with the AHL’s Grand Rapids Griffins — it could be three games, it could be a full two weeks.

“The good thing about GR is I think they play six or seven games in a short time, all at home,” Lalonde said.

While Nedeljkovic (2-4-2 record with a 4.09 goals-against average and 0.880 save percentage) works on his game, Ville Husso is the starter in Detroit, and Magnus Hellberg has emerged as his backup. Hellberg was a waiver-wire pickup in November, when the Wings took advantage of being able to carry three goaltenders. He, too, spent time in the minors on a conditioning stint.

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Having Hellberg enabled the Wings some leeway with Nedeljkovic, who has not played since Dec. 8.

“The reality of he hasn’t played in a long time,” Lalonde said. “It was no different than where we were with Magnus. He had only played a handful of games in a year plus, and it was important he went down on a conditioning stint. It would be unfair to Ned in some ways to throw him in if he hasn’t played. It’s an opportunity to get his game in order, get some rhythm.”

The Wings need a backup who can help take some of the workload of Husso, who faced his 25th start Wednesday when the Wings hosted the New Jersey Devils. It speaks to how badly the Wings need Hellberg that they opted to place forward Jakub Vrana on waivers and continued carrying three goaltenders in the face of a roster crunch.

“We are sitting here going through roster and lineup decisions, carrying three goalies,” Lalonde said. “But. it’s important. Even with Magnus — outside of Ville’s games, we haven’t had a ton of success. We’ve won two of three with Magnus in the net. We asked eight periods from him over a four-day span. We probably asked too much of him, but he was there for us.

“It’s an important position for us, and if we want to continue to have some success, we need some wins out of the position, and this is part of the process.”

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 latest book, “On the Clock: Behind the Scenes with the Detroit Red Wings at the NHL Draft,” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Triumph Books. Personalized copies available via her e-mail.

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