It was Magnus Hellberg the other night for the Detroit Red Wings, standing tall in the net during Detroit’s 3-2 win. A game later, he was yanked after surrendering three goals in 13 shots. Nedeljkovic was suddenly back in play.
On Saturday, it was Nedeljkovic’s net as he started between the pipes in an NHL game for the first time since December 8.
Nedeljkovic had 17 saves and kept Detroit in the game in what was an offensively-challenged contest for Detroit. True, the stat sheet wasn’t pristine for the now clean-shaven Nedeljkovic. But it was a momentum builder for the goalie who just a few season ago was a Calder Trophy finalist.
From Detroit to Grand Rapids and Back
The final 10 games of the season are an opportunity for the 27-year-old to audition for a new contract next season. The 2022-23 campaign certainly hasn’t been what Detroit or Nedeljkovic thought it would be. But hockey can be a funny sport. When Nedeljkovic was sent down, the trip to Grand Rapids was thought to be temporary–it turned out to be for a few months. At the time, head coach Derek Lalonde insisted the Red Wings still had faith in him.
“We haven’t given up on Ned,” Lalonde said. “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.”
A steady showing while in Grand Rapids kept Nedeljkovic sharp, and in his two performances since returning, he’s made 28 saves out of 31 attempts. Slow, and steady.
But so far, the game is back in order.
How Will it All End with the Red Wings?
With Detroit monitoring Husso carefully, and certainly not doing anything to rush him back, the next 10 games become a chance for not only Nedeljkovic, but also Hellberg, to show what they have. When Bally Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson asked Nedeljkovic about how much every start meant to him, the answer from the netminder was simple.
“They’re huge. Every game has a meaning to it, whether it’s the first one, or the 82nd one,” Nedeljkovic said. “Whatever it is, they all have meaning behind it. It’s just you gotta figure out what it is and find it in yourself as to what you’re playing for.”