SUN Hockey Pool

Battle of the backups

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

NEWARK, N.J. -- With the New Jersey Devils missing Martin Brodeur, Paul Martin, Bobby Holik, Brian Rolston, Brian Gionta and Bryce Salvador, and the Oilers playing without momentum, confidence, goaltending, special teams or poise, it shaped up to be a pretty even fight.

And it was.

The biggest difference was in goal, where the Edmonton Oilers, for a change, had it all over their opponent.

Not that New Jersey backup Scott Clemmensen was bad, it's just that Edmonton's backup, Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, was a game-breaker.

With Edmonton searching for someone to step up and lead this team in goal, the 24-year-old rookie put his two points in last night, kicking out 37 of 38 shots in a much needed 2-1 road win.

"It's always fun to be part of an NHL game, it's always a great feeling," said Drouin-Deslauriers, who looked a lot more comfortable and natural in this one than in his only other start, a 4-3 win over Calgary a week into the season. "The difference was that this was my second game, not my first, so that nervousness was maybe not there. But this was the New Jersey Devils, a great team with a lot of history. This was a huge game and a great feeling for me to be a part of it."

He was a major part of it.

3-3 THROUGH SIX

"He played very well," said head coach Craig MacTavish, whose club is 3-3 through the first six games of its seven-game road trip heading into today's finale against the Rangers. "He was just in the right spot and didn't look at all nervous. Very composed, and he made a couple of really big saves."

He also iced his own cake by assisting on Ales Hemsky's game-winning goal.

"I said from training camp that I was ready to make the jump," he said. "I feel that I have my place here. I have to prove myself every night, but I'm living my dream and I hope I'm going to be living my dream for the next 20 years."

Some Oilers fans will settle for the next game. Is it wishful thinking to suggest he could be the goalie who grabs Edmonton's puck and runs with it?

"It's hard to call, but it's all about getting opportunity and taking advantage of it," said MacTavish. "That's obviously what we'd like to see happen, somebody just grab it and get on a roll and string a bunch of games together, but it's been hard to predict. You could almost put a goaltending depth chart out daily."

A LOT OF HELP

Drouin-Deslauriers had a lot of help in the win, starting with Sheldon Souray's second-period goal to make it 1-0 Edmonton. It was only the fifth time in 14 games Edmonton scored first and it seemed to spark the Oilers, who made it 2-0 six minutes later on Hemsky's highlight-reel goal.

But the only reason they had the lead was Drouin-Deslauriers, who made a handful of five-star saves in the middle period, keeping it 2-0 after 40 minutes.

All they needed to do in the third was preserve the shutout and the win, so they rallied to the aid of their rookie goalie by getting outshot 7-1 in the first four minutes, and gave up the shutout when a puck banked in off Zach Parise's leg at 3:50.

But it would be the last one Jersey got. Lubomir Visnovsky seemed like he was trying his best to give this game away, but the Oilers survived his handful of glaring turnovers to win.

"Our goaltender was great, he made some big saves at some big times," said Souray. "That's all you can ask for. You're going to win a lot of games with great goaltending."

They knew he was in a pressure situation, a big road game that Edmonton had to win, but there wasn't much they could do to ease his mind.

"You know goalies, you don't do anything, you don't say anything," said Souray.


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