With the Albany Devils finding themselves thin between the pipes, they signed a “Moose” to a professional tryout contract on Thursday.
Johan Hedberg, who played the last three seasons with New Jersey before having the final year of his contract bought out last July, is pulling some spot duty for the organization’s AHL club this weekend, and he is likely to get into one of Albany’s three games.
“I really wasn’t sure what it was [going to be],” Hedberg said. “I thought I was just going to practice today, but they might need me over the weekend. At the same time, I’m excited. It’s going to be a lot of fun to play a game if that happens.”
The Devils were in a bind after goalie Keith Kinkaid went down with a lower-body injury with 1:19 left in the second period of last Saturday’s 3-0 win over Bridgeport. They have Maxime Clermont in the ECHL, but he is injured, as well.
Albany coach Rick Kowalsky said playing three games in three days, and playing them in three cities separated by nasty winter weather, is likely to force Hedberg into a game. The Devils will play Hershey tonight in Atlantic City, then will host Adirondack on Saturday, then travel Sunday to play Bridgeport.
“We get him on the ice today, get him on the ice tomorrow, then, hopefully, get him on the ice Saturday, and we’ll go from there,” Kowalsky said. “He’s been around the block a few times, so he understands what he needs to do and is smart enough to play within his limits.”
Hedberg has been on the ice, occasionally, in the past few months.
He participated on a tryout basis in the New York Rangers’ training camp, and he has been serving since as an unofficial scout for the Devils.
After coming off the ice Thursday morning in Albany, he said he was feeling “Not bad, for being off for that long.
“It felt pretty good,” Hedberg said. “A little stiff, a little slow, body doesn’t really react as quick as it should.”
Kowalsky said he believed Hedberg was just stepping in as a favor to the organization, but the big Swede would not dismiss the idea of using this brief return as a springboard to a new contract with another team.
As New Jersey bought out Hedberg’s contract, it is the only NHL team that cannot sign him this season.
“I don’t know. We’ll see,” Hedberg said. “I’m going to have as much of fun as I can these days and then see how it feels. If I feel that this is something I want to do, we’ll deal with that then. But for now, I’m going to get through this weekend and, hopefully, make the most of it.”
Hedberg’s best season with New Jersey was his 17-7-2 campaign in 2011-12. He had a goals-against average of 2.22 and a save percentage of .917. Last season, he was 6-10-3 with a 2.76 GAA and .883 save percentage.
In 373 NHL games, he has a record of 161-143-14-22 and 22 shutouts. His GAA is 2.82 and his save percentage is .902.
Not far removed from his playing days, he said it was easy falling back into this role.
“I’ve been around these guys for a bit, so they know me and I know them,” Hedberg said. “They were maybe a little surprised this morning when they saw me with my pads on, but now I’m one of them.”