Blue-chip bounce

ROBIN BROWNLEE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:23 AM ET

After going from blue-chip prospect to suspect in the eyes of many and getting lost in the shuffle during his first two pro seasons, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers isn't hard to find these days.

He was on the end of the Edmonton Oilers' bench tending the gate as the back-up to Dwayne Roloson against the Anaheim Ducks at Rexall Place last night.

That's closer to an NHL game than many critics believed the soft-spoken stopper from St-Jean Richelieu would get after two campaigns lost in the minors, stints that eroded his playing time and confidence.

Recalled from Wilkes-Barre of the AHL Monday to spell off a hobbled Jussi Markkanen, the 22-year-old is having what's unquestionably a bounce back year between the pipes.

Lost in the shuffle no more.

"I came into camp with a new attitude," said Drouin-Deslauriers, who wasn't going to win a roster spot with Roloson and Markkanen in the fold.

"I focused on what I had to improve."

A hot prospect when the Oilers selected him 31st overall in the 2002 Entry Draft from Chicoutimi of the QMJHL, Drouin-Deslauriers saw his star dim after a 2004-05 season split between the Edmonton Road Runners of the AHL and Greenville of the ECHL.

KNEE INJURY

His struggles continued last season when, as a product of the Oilers not having their own AHL farm team, he gathered dust toiling with the Hamilton Bulldogs for 13 games and did another stint in Greenville during a year in which he had to overcome a knee injury.

With first-round prospect Devan Dubnyk on the way, some cast a wary eye toward Drouin-Deslauriers and his future with the Oilers when this season began, but when he got the call from Wilkes-Barre, he was playing his best hockey as a pro.

"Hockey is a learning process," said Drouin-Deslauriers, who has paid special attention to sharpening the technical aspects of his game, like playing the angles, this season.

"You grow up each day. My first year, I had a lot to learn. My second year with Hamilton was different sharing (with Dallas). It was a tough situation down there.

"I knew this year was going to be the same sharing (with Pittsburgh), so I had to work harder if I wanted to play."

Splitting duties with Andrew Penner on the Penguins top farm team, Drouin-Deslauriers arrived in Edmonton boasting a record of 8-2-0 with a 2.36 goals-against average and a .903 saves percentage.

10 GAMES ALREADY

A year ago with Hamilton, he was 4-7-0 with a 3.15 GAA and an .897 saves percentage. With the Road Runners, he went 6-13-2 with a 2.96 GAA and .888 percentage.

"I didn't know how many games I'd play this year," said Drouin-Deslauriers after getting into just 13 with Hamilton last season.

"I'm already at 10 games now, so ..."

When Markkanen is ready to return from his bruised knee, Drouin-Deslauriers will be ticketed back to the minors and the maturing process will continue. He sounds like a young man very much on the right track.

"I'm good enough to play," he says without hesitation. "For me, I'm a No. 1 (goaltender) in my head.

"I've made some mistakes in the past. I learned from it. I know now that every situation is different and I know in my head I can play in this league."


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