Hedberg signs PTO with Albany Devils
The Albany Devils were down to one goalie after Keith Kinkaid left Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury, so 40-year-old Johan Hedberg stepped in and signed a professional tryout contract.
Kinkaid left the 3-0 win over Bridgeport with 1:19 left in the second period, and Scott Wedgewood finished out the shutout. The Devils inked Anthony Felice to a PTO to back-up Wedgewood in Manchester on Sunday, but released him earlier this week.
The Devils have Maxime Clermont in the ECHL, but he is injured at the moment.
Enter Hedberg, who had his final year of his contract bought out by New Jersey last July and did not catch on elsewhere this fall. He skated training camp with the New York Rangers, but since has been an unofficial scout for the Devils.
Kowalsky said he couldn’t see himself doing the same if the Devils were suddenly and ridiculously short of forwards.
“There would be no chance of me doing that,” Kowalsky said. “Maybe Sergei [Brylin, assistant coach] would get in there before. I’m well too far removed for that.”
In fairness, Kowalsky last played in the 2004-05 season. Brylin was playing in Russia’s KHL as recently as the 2011-12 season.
Also not far removed, goalie coach Dave Caruso was “the next pick” to fill in, Kowalsky said.
“The thing with Heddy is he was in training camp, so he’s not as far removed as the rest of us, even Dave,” Kowalsky said. “Dave is two years out now. We’ve used him for practice, so he’s been able to get on the ice a little bit here, but Heddy’s a little bit closer to finishing his career.”
After Thursday morning’s practice, Hedberg said he was feeling “not bad, being off for that long. It felt pretty good. A little stiff, a little slow, body doesn’t really react as quick as it should.”
Kowalsky said because of the travel this weekend — a three-in-three between three cities, with bus trips through some nasty winter weather — it’s likely the Devils will need Hedberg to play a game. Albany plays Hershey on Friday in Atlantic City, Adirondack on Saturday in Albany, and Bridgeport on Sunday in Connecticut.
“Travel under good conditions is enough to make us use two guys,” he said. “Under these circumstances, potentially getting weather a couple times here ... We haven’t decided, yet. We’re certainly preparing him, and we’re prepared to use him for a game.”
Hedberg said he initially figured he’d just be a practice goalie.
“I really wasn’t sure what it was [going to be],” he 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.”
He has taken to the role of player like he never left it, he said, and is already one of the guys.
Kowalsky said he believed Hedberg’s return to the game was just a favor the man known as “Moose” was doing for the Devils, but Hedberg did not dismiss the idea of using this weekend as a springboard to a new contract.
That new contract would have to be with one of the other 29 NHL teams, as New Jersey cannot sign him after buying out his contract.
“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.
Kinkaid is “feeling better,” Kowalsky said.
“We’re going to give him the weekend off, then we’ve got another week,” he said. “We’ll hopefully get him on the ice next week and go from there.”