One more save a game.
That's all Edmonton Oilers coach Craig MacTavish expects from his goaltenders. It hardly seems too much to ask. The problem - and this isn't a news flash to those paying attention - is Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen haven't been unable to provide it.
That's why the window of opportunity has again swung wide open for Mike Morrison, who arrived in Edmonton yesterday after being summoned from a conditioning stint with Greenville of the ECHL and will likely start against the Buffalo Sabres tonight.
Morrison, 26, was riding the bus back to Greenville late Saturday after a 4-1 win over the Augusta Lynx when his cellphone rang and assistant GM Scott Howson told him to get his backside back to Edmonton.
While Morrison didn't expect to be recalled until tomorrow or Wednesday, he's back in the fold after Conklin and Markkanen failed to get the job done, again, in a 5-3 loss to the Ottawa Senators at Rexall Place.
One more save, Mike.
"I'll get my second wind here," laughed Morrison, who got less than two hours sleep before jumping a 7 a.m. flight Sunday. "I'm doing alright."
Morrison, 6-1-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .930 saves-percentage with Greenville, might not be the long-term solution MacTavish seeks for his goaltending woes, but he deserves the chance to show his stuff - at least until GM Kevin Lowe can swing a trade.
Conklin, who gave up four goals on 16 shots against Ottawa, and Markkanen have seen to that by treating the starting job like a hot potato all season. That didn't change after Morrison was demoted to the ECHL Jan. 5.
"I haven't read anything, I just looked at the scores," Morrison said. "We'll see what happens. I hope I get another chance. I'm ready to go.
"I think I played well in the ECHL. I feel pretty good about myself and I'm ready to get back to work."
While MacTavish isn't willing to hang Saturday's loss on his goaltending and is resisting the urge to flog his stoppers publicly, which makes sense, there's no question Conklin and Markkanen have not been good enough.
"We're looking, in my estimation, for one more save a game," said MacTavish, who declined to name his starter against the Sabres tonight. "That's what we're looking for."
The numbers speak for themselves. Conklin has a 3.12 goals-against average and a save-percentage of .872. Markkanen is marginally better with his 3.13 GAA and .883 percentage. Morrison, who hadn't played since Dec. 19 when he was sent down, is 5-1-0 with a 2.35 GAA and .904 percentage.
Just as telling, the Oilers have outshot opponents in 16 straight games, but have won just eight of those. Only St. Louis and Chicago have a worse team save-percentage than Edmonton's .881.
"We're looking to hang somebody here," said MacTavish, casting a wary eye at his inquisitors yesterday. "I'm not at that point just yet. Another bad shift might get me there, but I'm not there just yet.
"Good teams overcome inconsistency in the net. Good teams overcome hot goaltenders at the other end . . . we'll get our goaltenders going or we'll get somebody who can do the job."
Which brings us back to Morrison.
Aside from back-to-back starts against Vancouver and Calgary - he got the hook from MacT after allowing two goals on four shots against the Canucks Dec. 17 and three more on 10 shots against the Flames Dec. 19 - Morrison was the best of the trio when sent down. It wasn't close.
"This is my second time here now," Morrison said. "My first time, I had a lot of success and a downer for a couple of games. I played well and experienced the good side of things, but there was that letdown as well.
"I think that was good for me. It helped me realize you're going to have good times and bad times. I've seen it. I've been to the top and I've been to the bottom of the barrel. I know how to handle it. I know what I need to do."