Baptism by fire for Oil goalie

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers has been waiting a long time for this shot, or, rather, these shots.

And he didn't have to wait long. In his first start since signing a one-way contract with the Edmonton Oilers, Drouin-Deslauriers faced a barrage of them from the visiting Florida Panthers.

Seven shots by the 1:49 mark of the first period, 16 by the first intermission, 29 by the final buzzer and, just for good measure, five more in the shootout.

Talk about a baptism by firing squad.

Drouin-Deslauriers wore it pretty well, though, keeping Edmonton close in a 3-2 shootout loss that probably could have been a lot worse.

"It's a lot of pressure but he's developed that over the years, the mental toughness," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "You have to have that as a goaltender. It's a pressure-filled situation but most nights are in this league, especially when you're trying to get in.

"He played good, bailed us out of the first period."

He bobbled the first two pucks that came his way, but settled down to keep Edmonton alive while they were being outshot 16-1 late in the first.

"I felt a bit stiff at the start, but as the game went on I was more comfortable with myself," he said. "I'm going to have to work on my shootout skills, but they'll get better."

As far as first impressions go, his was pretty good, which is good news for the Oilers, who found themselves in a rather uncomfortable two-goalie predicament with Mathieu Garon and Dwayne Roloson last season and want to get their current three-man situation sorted out as quickly as possible. Something, or someone, has to give.

Drouin-Deslauriers, 24, wants to keep his nose out of the politics and keep his head in the game.

"I'm just here to do my job, I'm focused on the present," he said. "I worked my way through the minors and I worked hard, I'm not going to stop. It's one thing to be in camp, but it's another thing to stay in the league. I have a great work ethic, I'm going to keep working hard."

He knows he has to, because the simple fact he's on a one-way deal doesn't mean he's guaranteed a spot here no matter what. He still has to prove he can be a competent NHL backup.

"I still have to fight for my place on the team," he said. "I have to work for my job, there's nothing guaranteed. I have to show them what I can do. I learned a lot in my four years down there."

It was a tough education at times. Drouin-Deslauriers had to soldier through some difficult situations that really stunted his development early in his pro-career. He was the biggest victim of Edmonton's inability to secure a minor league franchise, waiting for playing-time crumbs on a Hamilton team controlled by the Montreal Canadiens.

It hasn't quite been the road envisioned when the Oilers first picked him.

"Every guy when they get drafted wants to make the jump as quick as possible, everybody wants to play in the NHL at 18," he said.

"But you have ups and down like everybody has ups and downs in life. I'm a fighter, I'm somebody who has a lot of character. I rebounded from those situations."

Now, the one-way deal mean he's as close to his goal as he's ever been.

"When we signed the deal I was pretty happy, that's a good sign of recognition by the Oilers organization," he said. "I'm ready to play in the NHL. I learned a lot from my four years in the minors. I've been in tough situations, I've been in good situations, that's hockey."

Wanting it so badly for so long and finally getting a shot can be a lot for a young man to absorb, but Drouin-Deslauriers seems to be taking all of this in stride.

"Pressure is relative to everybody," he said. "I try to not put pressure on myself. I've been playing goalie since I was seven years old; it's the same game as when I was a kid."


Videos

Photos