Lowe is looking

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:16 PM ET

When Kevin Lowe steps to the plate to address the Edmonton Oilers' need for a proven No. 1 goaltender, he'll be swinging for the fences and looking for a home run when he takes his hacks.

Unfortunately, that's not going to happen now. Not because Lowe doesn't see a need for an upgrade between the pipes - even if he refuses, as you'd expect, to say so publicly - but because nobody is pitching him the kind of hanging cheese he can hit out of the yard.

I'm talking about Roberto Luongo, Olaf Kolzig and one or two other blue-chip stoppers. The complication, contrary to all of the unsubstantiated rumours, is that Florida GM Mike Keenan is NOT shopping Luongo.

KOLZIG'S NOT MOVING

Likewise, Washington boss George McPhee is not trying to unload Kolzig, who wants to finish his career with the Capitals. Buffalo's Darcy Regier is not offering up Martin Biron. At least not now.

There aren't any quick fixes for the dog's breakfast that is the triangle of Ty Conklin, Jussi Markkanen and Mike Morrison, none of whom have grabbed the starting job that's been there for 38 games.

Fans demanding a shakeup will have to make do for now with seeing one of the Oilers stoppers - likely Morrison - sent to the minors for a conditioning stint after the New Year's Eve game against the Flames in Calgary.

A bunt single, if you will.

"The guys on talk radio say we should go grab this guy or grab that guy," scoffed Lowe yesterday. "Yeh, sure."

If only it was that easy.

'NO ANSWERS'

"I'm not going to go public saying the goaltenders are getting a non-confidence vote," Lowe insists. "I know the landscape of the NHL and there's no answers.

"I look around at other teams and there's only a handful of teams that have any stability in goal right now. It's not unique to us."

The short-term solution - the conditioning stint - doesn't free up a roster spot and it doesn't address the fact that Conklin, Markkanen - who'll start against Nashville tonight - and Morrison haven't proven they deserve the top job.

"You weigh alternatives every day," coach Craig MacTavish said. "You can second-guess who you start, when you start them, how often you start him, where his confidence level is, but the bottom line is the goaltender has to give you that confidence that it's a no-brainer to circle his name each and every night.

"To this point in the year, with the exception of the streak Jussi had, we haven't had that."

Going into action last night, Conklin's 3.22 goals-against average was 33rd in the NHL and his .870 saves-percentage ranked 43rd. Markkanen's 3.08 GAA was 26th and his .887 percentage was 34th. Only Morrison's 2.35 GAA, good for sixth, and .904 percentage, ranking him 17th, was worth a sniff.

The Oilers aren't the only team with trouble in goal. Vancouver needs help. So does Colorado and Tampa Bay, to name just three clubs who could take a run at a Stanley Cup if their masked men could stop a beach ball.

If Keenan decides Luongo has to go, there'll be a lineup. Expect Lowe to be in it. Likewise for Kolzig and, to a lesser extent, Biron.

As for other names being tossed around - Andrew Raycroft, Marc Denis and Patrick Lalime come to mind - they aren't any better than who Lowe has right now. They aren't the big swings Lowe will be looking at leading up to the trade deadline. Of course, Lowe's not admitting that.

"The conversations I've had, I don't think there's going to be anyone around," Lowe said. "I don't even think it's going to come down to us having to make a tough decision on whether we move this guy or that guy."

Spoken like a man waiting on a hanging curveball.


Videos

Photos