Things bounce Conklin's way

SCOTT ZERR -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:47 AM ET

For all the heat he's been under during a batch of lacklustre pre-season performances, Ty Conklin looked rather comfortable in his office last night.

The weight of being the No. 1 netminder -- at least while Jussi Markkanen's broken collarbone heals -- seemed to be taking its toll on Conklin, whose rustiness from the long lockout layoff combined with a pesky groin strain was giving him all sorts of difficulties in his exhibition outings.

UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

If the concerns of not having a proven top-flight puckstopper weren't already loud enough from the cheap seats, they became more vocal as Conklin's early troubles were examined even deeper under the microscope.

But Conklin's first true test in the season opening 4-3 win over the Colorado Avalanche earned a passing grade

"The only guys I'm trying to prove something to are the guys in this room and the only way I can do that is by the way I play," said Conklin, who gave an enthusiastic pump of his fist when the final buzzer sounded.

"You definitely want to get out of the gate with a win. It makes you feel good about yourself and it makes us feel good about ourselves as a team."

Conklin heard the criticism but shrugged it off, sticking with his statement right from the start of training camp that he was capable of carrying the Oilers' goaltending load.

"You don't come into the pre-season in mid-season form," said Conklin. "It's progress and I still want to get better as the year goes on."

It certainly wasn't the busiest night that Conklin will face this season with just 14 saves. But he could very well have come out of the game with just a single goal against had the Avs not been the benefactors of two lucky bounces to give them their first-period goals.

"Conk's battled a couple of tough breaks and the thing I've talked about with Ty for the last four or five days of training camp was the mental toughness that he has," offered head coach Craig MacTavish. "For him to have a couple bad breaks that ended up in the net in the first four or five shots and to battle back after that -- to settle himself and calm himself down -- that's the sign of a good goaltender."

ACROSS THE GOAL LINE

Antti Laaksonen's tally would have never found the back of the net had the puck not found its way across the goal line via the foot of defenceman Igor Ulanov.

"I think my skates are small enough already. They were like a magnet. Maybe I should just stay in the middle," said Ulanov.

"Ty stopped the big shots and he really saved our game. So many of their shots were good scoring chances and he really redeemed himself from training camp. He's focused and he's playing well."


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