Kanata, Ontario — The most popular player in the Red Wings’ locker room Monday after the morning skate was Magnus Hellberg.
The talkative goaltender always tends to draw a crowd, but Hellberg was returning to Ottawa after playing with the Senators earlier this season before being waived.
Hellberg also was scheduled to get the start Monday night against the Senators.
“It’s a lot of fun; I had a great time here when I was in Ottawa,” said Hellberg, who at 6-foot-6 easily looked over the swarm of media around him. “I loved the organization, the fans were great. Of course it’s fun to get back here and see the guys for sure.
“But now I’m on the opposite team obviously.”
It was only one game Hellberg played in while in Ottawa, but it was a good one, and likely left an impression with other teams, notably the Wings.
Hellberg made 24 saves in a 4-2 victory in October over Dallas, while the Senators were riddled with goaltending injuries.
“It was huge,” Hellberg said of the victory. “Dallas was one of the top teams in the league at that time and we had a great game, both me and the team. It was a good showcase for other teams as well. It gave me some confidence for sure.”
When the Senators got healthy, they waived Hellberg, who was claimed by Seattle. The Kraken waived Hellberg and the Wings claimed him on Nov. 23, with Alex Nedeljkovic struggling while backing up Ville Husso and a busy schedule approaching the Wings.
Hellberg went into Monday’s game with 3-4-1 record, 2.63 goals-against average, and .903 save percentage with the Red Wings.
“He’s been great,” coach Derek Lalonde said. “He gives up one (goal) in Calgary, gave us a real good opportunity (a victory). He beat Ottawa previously (on New Year’s Eve) in a real good performance, a real tight game. He made some key saves.
“We trust him. That’s exactly why he’s playing (Monday), and we expect a good performance from him.”
This has been a turbulent year for Hellberg, 31, in that he’s on his third team in third different city, with his family along with him.
But after having spent four years in Russia’s pro league, and spending time in the Swedish Elite League, Hellberg appreciates the chance to play in the NHL.
“You get so caught up in trying to be in the present moment, but sometimes you just have to step back and see where you started and where you are now, and pat yourself on the shoulder a little bit,” Hellberg said. “I’ve put in a lot of hours both me and my family, traveling with me from city to city, team to team, and to have the support from here (his wife) is huge, obviously. I couldn’t do it without here.
“I’m just in a good place right now, and I’m always hungry to prove myself to both me and everybody else that I can play some good hockey.”
Lucas Raymond (lower body) returned to the lineup Monday after missing the last eight games. Raymond essentially replaced Michael Rasmussen (knee), who was hit with a slapshot Saturday and is out indefinitely.
“With Ras not being available to us on a week-to-week situation, it’s good timing, a big spark,” Lalonde said of getting Raymond back. “He’s been good over the last couple of practices and picking up where he left off. He’s a big piece of our top-six (forwards).”
Losing Rasmussen for a lengthy period will hurt the Wings.
“Even the underlying numbers can’t talk about what he has given us,” Lalonde said. “Grit, he drives lines on the wing, his penalty kill, he and (Andrew) Copp have taken a lot of pride and they are killing two-thirds of our penalties.
“But we’ve been here all year and we’ve liked our depth and our depth has gotten us to this point. Our guys will have to step up again.”
The lineup juggling kept Jakub Vrana as a healthy scratch for a second consecutive game.
“It’s more of the play of the rest of the guys,” Lalonde said. “We’re not going to get players in just to get players in. It’s more of what other players have done the last couple of games, players he’d be in the conversation with.”
Much of social media dropped their collective jaws over the fact Tampa Bay general manager Julien BriseBois traded defenseman Cal Foote and five draft picks to Nashville Sunday for forward Tanner Jeannot.
But Lalonde, who won two Stanley Cups on Tampa’s coaching staff under BriseBois, likely had a differing opinion on the trade.
“I’ll never question Julien BriseBois,” Lalonde said. “I know every summer the league would send me replica trophies and I liked working under Julien BriseBois. (The trophies are) right on the mantel. The Stanley Cups, but the Prince of Wales (trophies) there’s three of those, and the Presidents’ Trophy, so I will never ever question Julien BriseBois.
“I’m probably standing here with a bunch of cameras and bad lighting because of Julien BriseBois.”
Red Wings at Senators
▶ Faceoff: 7 p.m. Tuesday, Canadian Tire Centre, Ottawa, Ontario.
▶ TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM
▶ Outlook: The Senators and Wings play the second game in two nights, with the regularly scheduled game (Monday’s was the makeup of an earlier postponed game due to weather). … The Wings are expected to start G Ville Husso, while Ottawa goes with G Mads Sogaard.