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Hellberg Recalled; Will He Get a Chance to Compete for Red Wings Backup Job?

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Magnus Hellberg, Detroit Red Wings

Goaltender Magnus Hellberg has done all he can to persuade the Detroit Red Wings to consider using their insurance policy.

He has played impressively well for the Grand Rapids Griffins in his conditioning assignment. Hellberg is 2-2 in Grand Rapids, with a 2.50 goals-against average and .932 save percentage. He is limited to five games or 14 days on a conditioning visit.

Hellberg was heading back to Detroit on Sunday, where GM Steve Yzerman and coach Derek Lalonde will decide if they should use him.

The Red Wings didn’t sign Hellberg to be in their rotation. According to Lalonde, Yzerman told him he claimed Hellberg on waivers because Detroit had an available roster spot and he wanted to add to the organization’s goalie depth.

Yzerman probably was concerned about what Detroit’s goaltending would look like if Ville Husso or Alex Nedeljkovic were injured. Goalie-of-the-future Sebastian Cossa, 19, is playing for the Toledo Walleye. He’s not ready for the NHL. Grand Rapids goalie Victor Brattstrom hasn’t shown he is an NHL goalie. The Red Wings signed  Kontinental Hockey League goalie Jussi Olkinuora in the offseason, thinking he could be a good option if there were injuries.

But Olkinuora hasn’t distinguished himself yet this season. He owns a 3.90 GAA and an .867 save percentage.

Ideally, the Red Wings would like to keep Hellberg in Grand Rapids to help their younger players find more success. Then, he could be called up if needed.

However, that’s not a viable option. Hellberg would have to clear waivers to be assigned to Grand Rapids. He has already been claimed on waivers three times and it would likely be a fourth time if the Red Wings try to send him down.

Nedeljkovic vs. Hellberg

Hellberg isn’t just a hot goalie. He was an accomplished goalie for four seasons, posting a career 2.00 goals-against average and .927 save percentage with 24 shutouts. He is 3-0 in the NHL with 2.69 GAA. That includes a win for the Red Wings last season. He has turned in noteworthy performances for Sweden in international competition.

The Red Wings could use Hellberg as a practice goalie, although it is challenging to carry three goalies. Obviously there are only two nets.  But they won’t need need to call up a goalie if Husso or Nedeljkovic have a minor injury.

Maybe the Red Wings will wait, hoping every team gets settled in net, and then try to squeeze Hellberg through waivers.

But there is another option. They could let Hellberg compete with Nedeljkovic to be the No. 2 goalie. In nine games, Nedeljkovic is 2-4-2 with 4.09 GAA and .880 save percentage. In fairness to Nedeljkovic, the Red Wings played poorly in the majority of his starts. However, no one would say he’s at the top of his game.

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Another factor to consider is that neither Nedelkovic or Hellberg is signed beyond this season. They will be UFAs this summer.

It’s possible the Red Wings will just let this play out. Husso will receive the majority of starts. The backup may only get five or six starts over the next 25 games, particularly if the Red Wings remain in playoff contention. They will likely give Nedeljkovic a chance to find his game.

But it is plausible that  at some point Yzerman and Lalonde will ask themselves whether Hellberg is a better option at No. 2 than Nedeljkovic?