SUN Hockey Pool

Oil need goalie NOW!

TERRY JONES -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

The easiest column to write in Edmonton is that the Oilers need a goalie.

The column crying to be written today is that the Oilers need a goalie NOW!

Two bad five-hole goals were the difference as the Oilers lost 3-1 to the Buffalo Sabres last night. Another game in which the opposition goaltender played better than the Oiler goaltender. Another game in which the Oilers outshot the opposition. Another loss.

That's three straight losses.

Jussi Markkanen made a mess of it on Mark Messier night in New York. Ty Conklin was pulled after giving up four goals on 16 shots at home against Ottawa

Time's up, Kevin Lowe. NOW!

We all know what GM Lowe has been trying to do here by trying to get by with two back-up goalies and Eastern Leaguer Mike Morrison - who is probably back being the go-to-guy by acclamation again.

Or maybe not.

DENY, DENY, DENIAL

Last night coach Craig MacTavish was in deny, deny, denial.

"They were good shots that hit the right spot," he said of the two five-holers from a distance.

"Jussi gave us a game in net as good as we've got in a long time," said MacTavish, inadvertantly summing up the problem perfectly.

Lowe has been hoping to delay, delay, delay with hopes of making it to the Olympic break or the trade deadline.

With every game, the salary of a new goaltender for the rest of the season drops and the ability to make a deal with a team dropping out of playoff contention increases.

But there are now 12 games to go till the Olympic break. And after Turin, there will be four games to go until the trade deadline.

We all know that when Lowe went into the season he believed he had to give Markkanen, who led the Russian Elite League in goaltending last year, and Conklin, who was great at a world championship, a chance to be more than a back-up.

In the meantime, he also needed to get a handle on the rest of his hockey team in a season after the lockout.

Ales Hemsky has already taken a large leap to proving he'll be a superstar. Jaret Stoll, Shawn Horcoff and Marc-Andre Bergeron have proven they can be stars.

He knows what he's got and he's got a lot.

While Lowe needs to upgrade on Igor Ulanov and Cory Cross on defence, he's already half way there with Matt Greene who did some things last night to show he's here to stay.

Goaltending. NOW.

No way Lowe can delay any longer.

The Oilers, who were trying to convince everybody they were for real when they sat second in the conference at Christmas, have won only three of their last 11. They've lost their last three. They've slipped to eighth place and are back in the usual circumstance of trying to secure the final playoff position.

This is a good, maybe even very good hockey team, a team which if it had a real NHL No. 1 starting goaltender would be leading its division with points to spare.

They're now in definite danger of losing the spirit of the squad which again and again has been put in the position of going against better goaltending than they have looking after their own net.

You'd figure the timing was right last night to see one of those trade-dressing-room jobs with Martin Biron of Buffalo, a first-rate goalie (2.97 GAG and .901 save percentage) behind Ryan Miller who put his brilliance on display last night against the Oilers - giving up a spectacular goal to Hemsky and making an equally spectacular save to stop Hemsky on a breakaway.

Edmonton fans would love to see Lowe hit the home run and get Roberto Luongo, a Team Canada netminder who just turned down a five-year, $30 million US deal because he doesn't want to spend the next five years missing the playoffs playing behind the Florida Panthers.

KOLZIG?

Olaf Kolzig, who married a Western girl and is part owner of the Tri-Cities junior team and would love to get out of Washington where he had a .901 save percentage despite the Capital punishment he endures, would prefer to move west.

There's also Marc-Andre Fleury, who has a .903 save percentage behind the pathetic defence of the Pittsburgh Penguins who can't afford him when the next level of his contract kicks in.

But right now Frosty McSnowman looks good.

Time's up, Kevin Lowe.

Get the goalie.


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