SUN Hockey Pool

His number's up!

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

DENVER -- With Michael Peca nursing a sore hip-flexor and Ethan Moreau on injured reserve with a sprained ankle until after the Olympic break, the Edmonton Oilers put in a call for Kyle Brodziak yesterday.

Brodziak, 21, summoned from the Iowa Stars of the AHL, met the team in Denver yesterday afternoon and was in the line-up last night against the Colorado Avalanche.

"He was the best fit because we needed a centre," assistant-GM Scott Howson said of Brodziak, who is coming off shoulder surgery. "He's got some experience up here. We're comfortable with him in the lineup.

"He had a slow start this year with injuries and what-not, but he's picked up his game."

The St. Paul native, scoreless in seven games with the Oilers in previous call-ups this season, checked in with 6-9-15 and 24 penalty minutes in 28 games with Iowa, getting the nod to fill Peca's spot at pivot over Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Yan Stastny.

"Stastny is playing better now," Howson said. "He's had a tough three or four months, but he's getting his game together. He's been playing mostly on the wing down there.

"For our circumstances in the short-term, we feel like Kyle is the right guy at this point."

While Ty Conklin cleared waivers yesterday morning when he went unclaimed and is using one of 23 roster spots, the Oilers made room for Brodziak by putting defenceman Dick Tarnstrom on injured reserve.

The official word from the team on what's ailing Tarnstrom is that he has an "upper respiratory infection." Peca, meanwhile, has not yet been placed on injured reserve.

SHORT ON STOPPERS: Conklin went from potentially getting his ticket out of town on waivers to dressing as Mike Morrison's backup against the Avs last night because Jussi Markkanen wasn't feeling well enough to play.

Markkanen, pulled in Monday's 6-5 shootout win over Anaheim when he took ill, was still feeling nauseous yesterday morning when coach Craig MacTavish made the decision to dress Conklin.

The Oilers have one too many stoppers on their roster, but the organization is woefully short of masked men in the minors as Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, who has been toiling with Greenville in the ECHL, is out with a sprained knee.

Drouin-Deslauriers has a Grade 1 sprain of the MCL and is expected to be out of the Greenville lineup for two or three weeks. While that would seem to open the door for demoting Conklin, it isn't that simple.

"If we assign Ty, it's a big risk to try to get him back," said Howson. "If we sent him down and one of our guys here gets hurt, we'd be in a difficult situation."

If Conklin is sent to the minors - he can be demoted in the next 30 days or 10 games now that he's cleared waivers - a team could claim him on re-entry waivers on the way back to the NHL. The Oilers would be on the hook for half his salary for the remainder of this season and in 2006-07.

AROUND THE RINK: The NHL trade freeze for the Olympic break begins Friday and runs through Feb. 27. While certain types of roster moves, such as call-ups and demotions involving organizational players, are allowed, there won't be any trade action during the Olympics. Markkanen was given the option of going to Turin as Finland's third goaltender, but he's decided to pass and will use the break to rest and get ready for the stretch drive.


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