He's up, but not in

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:37 AM ET

DENVER -- One man's slump is often another man's big break and Mike Morrison wants to make the most of his.

But, a lot of it is out of his hands.

Called up from the East Coast League to back up Jussi Markkanen during Ty Conklin's minor-league conditioning stint, Morrison might not even make it off the bench.

"Get on the plane, come up here and work hard,'' Morrison said of his job description when he caught up with the team in Denver yesterday. "Be here, play well in practice and if there's an opportunity take advantage of it.''

IF HE GETS HOT ...

If Markkanen gets hot, the slumping Oilers will ride him as long as they can and Morrison won't get a sniff. If the Finn falters, it's Morrison's big chance.

"Of course I want a chance to play, but I can't really control that,'' he said. "I'll get some practices under my belt and if my number is called my number is called. I think they have the confidence in me they can at least do that.''

They should. Morrison was by far the best goalie in training camp (Markkanen didn't play because of a broken collarbone). But the Oilers had higher draft picks invested in Devan Dubnyk and Jeff Deslauriers and better contracts invested in Conklin and Markkanen. So they shipped him and his .045 GAA to Greenville.

With goaltending such a big concern in Edmonton, you have to figure they'll want to take a good long look at Morrison, to see what they've got in their own system, before going the trade route. But with the team struggling, it's going to be an extremely short leash for a guy who's never played an NHL game.

DEPENDS ON JUSSI

"It depends on how Jussi is,'' head coach Craig MacTavish said before last night's game. "(Morrison) could play as early as Friday or not at all. It'll all be dependent on where we are with our goaltending.''

He's as close to The Show as he's ever been, but all the 26-year-old can do is wait.

"I still have a lot to prove and I'm ready to do that if the chance ever does come,'' he said. "If it doesn't, I have no hard feelings, I'm just doing what they tell me to do.''

YOU AGAIN? The Avs are in the midst of a 20-game stretch that has them playing Vancouver or Edmonton in 10 of those games.

Talk about familiarity breeding contempt.

"When you look at the schedule you blink and go wha, wha, what?,'' said defenceman John-Michael Liles. "I guess it's a good thing because of the rivalry aspect, but you go out for warm-ups and it's, 'Oh, you guys again.' ''

Teammate Ian Laperriere likes the divisionally-weighted schedule.

"After a couple of back-to-back games the rivalries will be right back,'' he said. "The league needs that and I'm all for it.''

IRON MAN: Avs defenceman Karlis Skrastins has the NHL's longest active iron man streak, 360 games after last night. He's two games ahead of the next longest active streak, Brendan Morrison.

"I try not to think about it,'' he said. "It just happens, you can't think about it. I don't do anything special. I'm not meditating or doing different stuff.

"I've had a couple of big (hurts) but if it doesn't bother my game, I can play.''


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