It's hard to imagine that Mathieu Garon can be at the top of his game tonight - if he draws in against the L.A. Kings - but he'd have to be, otherwise he might not see the sheet again till after Christmas.
Garon, who hasn't started a game since Nov. 6, hasn't been getting any love from the coaching staff. Dustin Penner thought he got wood-shedded? Try getting benched for three weeks.
"I've been practising a lot," said Garon, who says he hasn't been told if he'll get the nod against his former team tonight. "Sometimes you work at little things and that's what I've been doing the last week or two ... actually the last three weeks."
With Dwayne Roloson and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers taking turns getting hot, Garon hasn't been able to get a start in edgewise. And on a rare night when he was being considered, Nov. 18 in Columbus, goalie coach Pete Peeters reportedly pulled the crease out from under him, robbing Garon of a chance to prove himself.
Not surprisingly, Garon's confidence is taking a beating.
"It's hard because sometimes you get to a point that you're thinking too much," he said. "Every goal that gets scored on you in practice, you're over-analyzing it.
"It gets to a point that you just focus on doing the little things, work on the things I have to work on. Right now I'm feeling great."
When you've only made one unscheduled relief effort in three weeks, it's tough to be sharp in your first start, but Garon has no choice. The way things are going, a rusty night might mean another two weeks on the pine.
"It's pretty much always the same thing," he said of the three-goalie situation. "When you get a chance you don't want to miss it, you want to make sure you're playing good so you have another start, soon. But there's not much I can control. With three goalies, everybody would love to play lots of games."
NEED TO GET SCORING
As much as they've been pining for grit, the Oilers are still woefully short on scoring punch - a trend that has to change if they're to even entertain hope of making the playoffs.
"Our team game has been fine," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "The defence has been fine, the goaltending is OK, we just need more consistent scoring out of our forwards.
"We've gone through a lot of combinations trying to find chemistry and consistent scoring. The pressure falls on the shoulders of the forwards. There's four or five guys we need more from offensively, up front.
"If we get that we'll be fine. But it's a tough league to win in if you're not scoring. We have to get them producing."
Erik Cole is on pace for about 28 points this season, Penner and Sam Gagner are on pace for 20. No forward on the team, other than Ales Hemsky, is on pace for more than 45.
"Short term you can win a match-up 1-0, but long term you have to have the stats on your top lines to be productive as a team," said MacTavish.\