The goal is final resolution

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:40 AM ET

About the only thing dragging on longer than Mark Messier's jersey retirement ceremony at Madison Square Garden Thursday is the ongoing saga of mediocrity and indecision where the Edmonton Oilers goaltending situation is concerned.

The unspoken hope when the Oilers sent Mike Morrison to the minors on Jan. 5 for a conditioning stint was that Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen would sharpen their games and have things sorted out by the time the Ottawa Senators come calling at Rexall Place tonight.

PECKING ORDER PENCILLED

Three games later, it hasn't happened. The pecking order still isn't written in anything but pencil and Morrison is set to return from Greenville of the ECHL Tuesday, making it three's company between the pipes once again.

At least for the time being.

"We'll look at it again and see where we are," assistant GM Scott Howson said yesterday.

Conklin, 29, has gone 1-1 in his two starts since Morrison was shipped out. He blanked the Chicago Blackhawks 5-0 with 23 saves Jan. 3, but followed that up by giving up three goals on just 19 shots in a 3-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs Jan. 7.

Markkanen, 30, allowed five goals on just 22 shots in Thursday's 5-4 loss to the Rangers at MSG, including a softy on the short side on a backhand by Petr Prucha to tie the game 4-4.

He gave up six goals on 25 shots in a 6-5 loss to the Calgary Flames Dec. 31 before Morrison was demoted. Markkanen's lone win in his last three starts was a 3-1 win over Pittsburgh Tuesday.

Morrison, 26, who was 5-1-0 with a 2.35 GAA and .904 saves percentage when sent down, is 4-1 with Greenville in five starts after beating Gwinnett 5-4 in a shootout Thursday. At the very least, it would seem Morrison has earned another look with the Oilers.

'I DON'T KNOW'

"Maybe when Mike comes back he gets another shot at it, I don't know," said Howson, deferring to coach Craig MacTavish.

"If Mike does come in and play well in another start, it makes for a difficult decision. You can get a different answer almost every day about who is the best goalie right now."

Overall, Conklin is 5-4-1 with a 2.89 GAA and an .880 saves-percentage. Markkanen, meanwhile, is 14-10-4 with a 3.14 and .883. Combined in the past five games, their saves-percentage is .860.

Morrison is using one of 23 roster spots on his conditioning assignment, so nobody needs to be reassigned when he returns.

All three stoppers need to clear waivers before anybody can report to the minors - that's assuming MacTavish isn't going to juggle the threesome indefinitely.

BY THE NUMBERS: The bottom line on the goaltending situation when you add up all the numbers is far from flattering.

While the Oilers went into games last night ranked a respectable 14th in team goals-against average with 3.04, they sat 27th with a team saves-percentage of .883.

Only the St. Louis Blues (.869), Chicago (.875) and the Atlanta Thrashers (.882) - teams that went into action yesterday with a combined record of 45-69-15 - were worse.


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