Nedeljkovic heading to Grand Rapids for conditioning stint; Wings awaiting word on Vrana’s status

Detroit News

Detroit — Goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic is headed to Grand Rapids to get in some work.

The Red Wings assigned Nedeljkovic to their minor-league affiliate Wednesday, after the slumping goaltender made only two starts since Nov. 30, the last one on Dec. 8 (which was also Nedeljkovic’s last appearance).

Nedeljkovic, 26, has played in nine games this season, posting a 2-4-2 record, with a 4.09 goals-against average and .880 save percentage.

The Griffins have an upcoming six-game homestand (it began Wednesday, with Nedeljkovic already scheduled to start), which should help Nedeljkovic knock off some rust.

“We haven’t given up on Ned,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “I don’t have any problem saying that. We’d like to keep things when we discuss players and the big picture, but we haven’t given up on Ned. We’d like to see him get his game in order and kind of evaluate from there.

“The reality of it now is he hasn’t played in a long period of time. It’s no different than with (goaltender) Magnus (Hellberg), who literally had only played a handful of games in a year-plus and it was important for him (Hellberg) to go down on a conditioning stint. It would be unfair in Ned in some ways to throw him in if he hasn’t played.”

The move means Hellberg, who has been in net for two of the Wings’ last three victories, will temporarily remain the backup to Ville Husso. Hellberg was claimed on waivers Nov. 23 by the Wings, as Nedeljkovic struggled to find any consistency.

Nedeljkovic finished third in balloting for Calder Trophy (rookie of the year) in 2020-21, after going 15-5-3, with a 1.90 GAA and .932 SVS. The Wings acquired Nedeljkovic with Carolina in July 2021.

Nedeljkovic played in 59 games with the Wings last season, with a 20-24-9 record, and 3.31 GAA and .901 SVS.

“No one has a playbook of (how to use) three goalies, I’ve never experienced it, it’s rarely done in the NHL because teams don’t have the luxury of roster spots and cap space,” Lalonde said. “He (Nedeljkovic) was good with it (going to Grand Rapids). I’d be surprised if he doesn’t see that.”

Vrana update

The Wings will know at 2 p.m. this afternoon (Wednesday) if another team will have claimed forward Jakub Vrana off waivers.

The Wings made the surprising decision Tuesday to alleviate the roster crunch, needing a roster spot for Robby Fabbri, who was to make his season debut Wednesday against New Jersey after having off-season knee surgery.

Lalonde said he and Yzerman were on in unison on this roster move.

“We talked about it thoroughly,” Lalonde said. “Steve and I discuss everything together. We’re on the same page in everything. Ultimately it’s Steve’s decision and it’s exactly why you need that manager/coach layer. But weighing everything, that’s what we came up with.

Vrana recently returned from a two-month stint on the NHL/NHLPA players assistance program, after having played the first two games of the season with the Wings. Vrana played three games in Grand Rapids last week on a conditioning stint and is scheduled to remain there this week.

“We don’t want to get into the details of it, especially with the situation where Jakub is in, his coming back (from the program) and it’s private and personal to him, but ultimately we had to make a decision and that’s the decision.

“He does provide goals. Where he is in his game, you hope to get back to obviously and he’s getting his game in order, he’s in the process of getting his game in order, and hopefully to where he was. It’s all part of it. I can’t project where he’ll be for us, or anybody else in time. He’s in the middle of getting his game in order.”

Twitter: @tkulfan

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