SUN Hockey Pool

Mike's da man!

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 12:53 PM ET

PHOENIX -- All he cares about is stopping pucks and winning games. If that, and the ability to back it up, isn't reason enough to give him the ball and let him run with it, I don't know what is.

Mike Morrison could point to all kinds of statistics and performances, like Thursday's 3-2 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks, and make a compelling argument why he deserves to be the go-to guy between the pipes for the Edmonton Oilers.

And Morrison could be forgiven for crowing just a bit - a lot, actually - after coming back from a conditioning stint in the minors and beating the Sharks with 27 saves in his first NHL start in exactly a month.

That's not his style, even though he's done more with less opportunity than Ty Conklin or Jussi Markkanen. He refuses to be coaxed out of the Oilers goaltending picture even though it seems, at least from this corner of the rink, he hasn't received his due. How refreshing is that?

"The bottom line is I have to go out and get wins," Morrison said after a night to sleep on his victory.

"Whether we win 6-5, stats don't really bother me. As long as at the end of the game we have a win, that's what I have to think about."

LANKY PUCK-STOPPER

Had Morrison, 26, struggled Thursday, there's a pretty good chance the lanky puck-stopper from Massachusetts would've been buried behind Conklin and Markkanen for keeps.

Back-to-back poor starts against Vancouver and Calgary in December put him on the pine or in the press box long enough, despite a stellar season to that point, that he had to be sent to Greenville of the ECHL just to get some playing time while Conklin and Markkanen fumbled the starting job back and forth.

Even with Thursday's performance, improving him to 6-1-0 with a 2.28 goals-against average and .908 saves-percentage, Morrison isn't taking anything for granted - like starting against the Phoenix Coyotes tonight.

"I try not to think about it, but I probably have the shortest rope of the three of us," Morrison said. "I've got to play well. These guys are proven guys and I'm not. I've got to get over that hump of proving myself, proving I can bounce back from a loss or a bad game. It's in the back of my mind."

As of yesterday, Craig MacTavish hadn't committed to giving Morrison the start tonight, although that's a nod, reason would dictate, that will come before the puck drops tonight. No?

"I've got to contemplate it a little further," MacTavish said when asked to name his starter.

"I want to have Mike available for Calgary and just weigh the merits of possibly starting Jussi (tonight) and then come back with Mike Monday. Or, I may contemplate using Mike for three straight."

Straight up, Morrison's outperformed Conklin and Markkanen. Conklin's rebounded from a tough stretch somewhat and is 5-5-0 with a 3.12 GAA and .872 percentage, Markkanen is 14-11-4 with 3.13 and .882.

"He gave us the saves to win the game. He got us two points," MacTavish said of Morrison's display in San Jose.

In the bigger picture - think the March 9 trading deadline - GM Kevin Lowe might decide none of the three can carry the Oilers down the stretch drive. Fair enough.

But until Olaf Kolzig, Martin Biron, Marc Denis, Roberto Luongo, Andrew Raycroft or one of the other stoppers on the wish-list of fans packs for Edmonton, Morrison has earned the right to be the guy.

'IT'S ABOUT WINS'

Morrison isn't saying so, and neither is MacTavish, but that's how it looks from here.

"It's about wins," Morrison said. "The coach said that to us after our three-game (losing) streak. It's not about stats or the name on the back of your jersey. It's about wins right now.

"It's the time of the season, where there's a lull and these are the points you can take to make up ground and pay dividends so we don't have to make that classic Oiler push at the end. It doesn't matter how you do it. They don't ask how, just how many."


Videos

Photos