SUN Hockey Pool

Difficult juggling act

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:59 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish surprised a few people by starting Mike Morrison instead of Jussi Markkanen against the Vancouver Canucks last night.

Clearly, juggling three goaltenders is not an exact science - MacTavish opted to give Morrison the start after three games as a spectator despite the fact Markkanen had beaten the Canucks twice this season.

Then again, Morrison, 26, who is rotating with Markkanen and Ty Conklin, has the best numbers of the trio. He began last night's game with a record of 5-1-0, a 1.79 goals-against average and .927 saves percentage before getting pulled after two quick goals in the first period.

"They're all playing pretty well right now, so it's just a case of buying some time and getting more information on whether Mike can do it consistently for us," MacTavish said before the game yesterday.

"The only thing he hasn't done is do it consistently, and that's no fault of his own. His numbers are great. I like the style of goaltender he is in games like this where you expect a certain amount of traffic around your net. He's got courage. He'll stand in there and take the charges."

Conklin, 29, who made back-to-back starts in a 2-1 shootout loss in New Jersey last Tuesday and a 5-3 win over Montreal Thursday, is 2-1-1 with a 3.32 GAA and .867 saves-percentage. He didn't even dress last night.

Markkanen, 30, who lost 3-2 to the New York Islanders in a shootout on Dec. 10, took a 10-9-3 record, 3.03 GAA and .892 saves-percentage into last night as Morrison's backup.

Despite what the numbers suggest, MacTavish continues to insist he'll go with three stoppers for as long as it takes to sort out a pecking order and get down to two in the crease. Apparently, he's not there yet.

While MacTavish has glowing praise for Morrison's performance thus far, he is still reluctant to hand him the job as the No. 1 guy.

"He's the one guy we didn't give any opportunity to," admits MacTavish. "He has put himself in this position with limited opportunity.

"He was the best goalie in (training) camp, but we needed to get Ty going because he was a proven commodity and he's done it before. We have Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers in the wings and we didn't want to disrupt him, so Mike ends up going to the ECHL.

"It's all part of the mental toughness test for goaltenders. He's passed with flying colours."

BAD TIMING FOR JOSH: With the Canucks flirting with the salary cap and looking to pinch pennies, former Oiler Josh Green has been up and down between Vancouver and the Manitoba Moose like a yo-yo this season.

Unfortunately for Green, 28, he was in the AHL with the Moose when he damaged a tendon in his right hand in a scrap with Rochester's Jeremy Swanson.

Green had surgery to repair the hand and is out six weeks - he'll be paid the minor league salary from his two-way deal, not the $500,000 he gets in the NHL.

For Green, who scored a goal for the Canucks in a 5-3 loss to the Oilers at Rexall Place Dec. 1 and was demoted to Manitoba after the game, that's adding insult to injury.


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