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Update: Red Wings assign Nedeljkovic to Grand Rapids on conditioning assignment

Detroit carried three goalies during the 1968-69 season

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Alex Nedeljkovic, Red Wings
What does the future hold for Red Wings goalie Alex Nedeljkovic?

Looking to fix what ails him, the Detroit Red Wings are assigning goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic to the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins on a conditioning assignment.

Nedeljkovic is enduring his struggles during his sophomore campaign with the Red Wings. He’s showing a 2-4-2 record in nine appearances, along with a 4.02 GAA and .880 save percentage. His last game action came on December 8. Nedeljkovic has earned a win since November 6.

“We haven’t given up on Ned,” Detroit coach Derek Lalonde stressed. “I don’t have any problem saying that. We like to keep things private when we discuss players and the big picture. We want to see him get his game in order and re-evaluate it from there.”

Under the terms of a conditioning assignment, Nedeljkovic can stay in GR for five games or two weeks,which comes first. It’s entirely voluntary. And he still counts as one of the 23-players on Detroit’s active roster.

For the time being, the Detroit Red Wings are intent on carrying three netminders. However, Lalonde was quick to point out that the club’s glut of players about to come off IR could cause that situation to suddenly change.

Since claiming Magnus Hellberg on waivers from the Seattle Kraken on November 23, there’s been three goalies occupying spots on Detroit’s 23-player roster. No. 1 netminder Ville Husso is the other goalie.

When Husso was recently struggling with illness, the Red Wings were opting to give successive starts to Hellberg.

“We were fortunate having three goalies with Ville being unavailable for a week,” Lalonde said.

Seeing action in four games since arriving from the Kraken, Hellberg is 2-2 with a 2.74 GAA and .897 save percentage.

Husso is carrying the load between the pipes for Detroit. He’s 12-6-5 with a 2.86 GAA and .908 save percentage.

Those numbers led to speculation that Nedeljkovic could be on his way out, or at the very least, on as has happened, his way to the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins on a conditioning assignment. But Lalonde is insisting that all three goalies are still a part of the team’s plans.

“No one has the playbook of three goalies because I’ve never experienced it,’ Lalonde said. “It’s rarely done in the National Hockey League because teams just don’t have the luxury of roster spots and cap space.”

Red Wings Were First To Experiment With Three-Goalie System

Ex-Red WIngs Terry Sawchuk

Terry Sawchuk in 1968-69

The long-held theory in hockey is that three goalies on the roster is one too many. There are, after all, only two nets available for practice.

“It’s been unique on everyone, having a three-goalie system, with practice, travel, who’s backing up,” Lalonde admitted.

The first team in NHL history to test the vailidty of this theory was in fact, the Red Wings. Detroit carried three goalies on the roster for the entire 1968-69 season. The Wings were the first NHL team to do so.

Roger Crozier and Roy Edwards were the holdovers from the 1967-68 campaign. On October 10, 1968, just prior to the start of the season, Detroit moved to acquire legendary Red Wings goalie Terry Sawchuk from the Los Angeles Kings for a third tour of duty with the team.

Both Crozier and Edwards were nervous sorts. The thinking of GM Sid Abel was that the veteran presence of Sawchuk, 39, could help both netminders in a sort of mentor’s role.

“Roger seems more relaxed on and off the ice with Terry around,” Red Wings coach Bill Gadsby noted early into the 1968-69 season.

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Edwards saw the bulk of the action, playing 40 games. He was 18-11-6 with a 2.55 GAA and .915 save percentage. Playing 26 games, Crozier went 11-15-3 while posting a 3.33 GAA and .896 save percentage. Performing in 13 games, Sawchuk when 4-5-3 while putting up a 2.63 GAA and .912 save percentage.

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