As he met with he media following his debut for the Grand Rapids Griffins, it was hard not to notice that goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic did so while adorned in a Detroit Red Wings t-shirt.
Incentive perhaps? A reminder of where he intends to be when he gets back to good.
For starters, the news is all positive. Making his first AHL start since the 2020-21 season, Nedeljkovic was stopping 26 shots and leading the Griffins to a 3-1 victory. In the process, he was also earning recognition as the game’s first star.
UPDATE: The Red Wings on Wednesday assigned goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic to the Griffins on a conditioning loan. #GoGRG
— Grand Rapids Griffins (@griffinshockey) January 4, 2023
“It was almost necessary,” Nedeljkovic admitted of the conditioning loan request he was accepting as the behest of Red Wings management. “It’s really tough to replicate that game-type scenario in practices.”
It’s not where he wants to be. Certainly, it isn’t how Nedeljkovic or the Red Wings were expecting this season to play out.
Red Wings Need Nedeljkovic to Rediscover His Game
At the same time, both parties are recognizing that it’s where Nedeljkovic must be for now, in order to get his game back to where he can be of help to Detroit at the NHL level.
“I think any player, you never want to go down like that, go down a level, but I haven’t played in a while,” Nedeljkovic said. “That was the idea in this whole situation to get some game action, feeling the puck in game situations.
“It was great. It had been awhile, so I was looking forward to it and I put together a good game.”
A Calder Trophy finalist two seasons ago with the Carolina Hurricanes, Nedeljkovic was looking like a lost cause between the pipes for Detroit this season. In nine appearances, he’s 2-4-2 with a 4.09 GAA and .880 save percentage.
Wednesday was Nedeljkovic’s first game action since December 8. The victory was his first since November 6.
Under the terms of the conditioning loan, he can stay with the Griffins for a maximum of two weeks or five games.
“I was just looking forward to getting some games in and finding my game,” Nedeljkovic said. “Obviously it had been a rough start to the season up top.
“It was nice to get a game like this under my belt. Hopefully I can build on this and build some consistency going forward.”