SUN Hockey Pool

Morrison has paid his dues

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

DENVER -- Right up until the end of yesterday's morning skate at the Pepsi Center, coach Craig MacTavish wasn't willing to name his starting goaltender against the Colorado Avalanche.

It didn't take a genius, mind you, to figure out Mike Morrison would be making his first NHL start for the Edmonton Oilers when the puck dropped against Joe Sakic and company.

MacTavish told Morrison, who has been biding his time since being recalled from Greenville of the ECHL Oct. 24, he'd be getting the nod after a 3-1 loss to the Blackhawks in Chicago Sunday.

The anticipation was written all over the lanky stopper's face. And if that wasn't enough of a tip-off, all the time Morrison spent with a cell phone in his ear while calling his parents yesterday morning was.

You're in, kid.

"I'll be excited later. I've got plenty of work to do," said Morrison, who spilled the beans in the dressing room after the morning skate. "It's the best team I've ever faced, so I've just got to do my homework and go out there, keep a level head and hopefully play a good game."

With Jussi Markkanen making 14 consecutive starts, the 26-year-old from Medford, Massachusetts has been working the gate and waiting for the tap on the shoulder. Morrison saw his first NHL action in Dallas Nov. 7, mopping up for Markkanen in a 4-0 loss to the Stars. He played 18:12 and stopped all three shots he faced.

A start, though, is a whole different thing, especially when it comes at the tail-end of road trip against an offensively gifted team like the Avs.

"I'm going to go out and have fun," said Morrison. "It's going to be fun to play against a team like this. I'm just going to enjoy it."

To say Morrison has paid his dues is to understate. Selected 186th overall in the 1998 Entry Draft out of the University of Maine, Morrison's been a good company man for four pro seasons.

He's faced rubber in Columbus and Greenville of the ECHL and Toronto and Edmonton of the AHL while waiting for the chance that came last night.

"No, not really," said Morrison, asked if it's been difficult to wait this long to get a start.

"There's 60 goalies in this league right now and I'm one of them. It's a tremendous honour.

"To be up here with this team, a franchise with such tradition, it's huge. It's either here or I'm in the ECHL.

"... This is definitely a dream come true, but you still have to go out there and do your job."

Morrison's father, mother and sister were in Columbus for a 3-1 win over the Blue Jackets last Friday and his family jetted into the Mile High City for last night's game.


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