Three's a crowd in net

SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:30 AM ET

It's actually not a bad problem to have considering all the other possible issues heading into an NHL season. When you break it down, it's better to have three goaltenders that can stop the puck than two who can't.

This year Mathieu Garon, Dwayne Roloson and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers are all vying for playing time.

As it stands, Garon is carrying the big stick. Roloson will caddie for him and Drouin-Deslauriers will somehow have to earn a spot.

"I'm never one to have to come in and say this is my No. 1 (goaltender), this is my No.2 (goaltender)," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "It's a performance-based business and you're going to play the guy who plays the best.

"Right now we base those decisions on what we saw last year. Then you factor in what we saw at training camp this year.

"Everyone is going to get an opportunity and it's going to be dependent on who's the best goalie. And that's pretty easy to determine."

The Oilers don't seem averse to starting the season with three goaltenders on the roster. It's safe to say it won't end that way.

Eventually they'll have to make a move to elevate the backlog.

Three years ago they were in a similar situation with Ty Conklin, Jussi Markkanen and Mike Morrison.

Unfortunately for the Oilers, none of them did a particularly good job of stopping pucks, forcing the Oilers to go out and acquire Roloson.

"It's not ideal," MacTavish said. "There are a lot of things about three goalies that don't make a lot of sense. You can only play one, so why have three? There are a lot of issues, but those will be evaluated."

It's the squeeze on Drouin-Deslauriers that has the Oilers in their current predicament.

The native of St-Jean-Richelieu, Que., signed a one-way contract extension this off-season which means he has to clear waivers in order to play with the Oilers' AHL affiliate in Springfield.

Having invested so much in Drouin-Deslauriers since taking him with their second pick (31st) overall in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, the Oilers are not keen on just simply letting him get away.

However, blue-chip prospect Devan Dubnyk has been designated the starter with the Falcons, currently pegged to play around 60 games. He's being groomed to one day take over the Oilers starting role.

"Coming out of junior, everyone wants to get to the NHL as quickly as possible," Drouin-Deslauriers said. "I think I'm ready this year. Physically and mentally I'm ready to be here. I think this is where I belong. I've done what I've had to do in the minors and now I have to prove myself in the NHL."

It's not that simple.

Garon, 30, is the Oilers' current starter.

He earned the role after an impressive first season with the team, wrestling the job away from Roloson. It's his job to lose.

And after battling for so long with three different teams in order to get this opportunity, Garon isn't just going to relinquish it.

"I've been in this situation before (three goaltenders) when I was in Montreal," said Garon. "It's not easy, but if you play well, you're going to play, so that's all I'm focusing on.

"I'm feeling great coming into the season. But at the same time you still have to prove yourself every night. I just want to focus on things a game at a time and keep playing well."

Roloson, 38, meanwhile, rescued the Oilers in 2006 and backstopped them to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final before a knee injury took him out of the series.

He's in the final year of a three-year deal, which will pay him more than three times what Garon is making.

The veteran netminder proved he could still play, taking over towards the end of the season when Garon was ailing, and came into camp in great shape.

"This is the strongest I've felt in a while, so it's good and I'm looking forward to the season, for sure," Roloson said.

"I don't think it matters who you are, you want to be the No. 1 guy and that's just part of being a goalie. It's the drive to be No. 1 and it's one of those things that you aspire to be.

"I can only control what I can control and that's just going out there and trying to stop the puck."


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