SUN Hockey Pool

Deslauriers finally gets a real shot

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 12:31 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- Jeff Deslauriers isn't one to complain, which is good because you'd have to pack a lunch and a spare set of ears to sit through all the reasons he has to feel hard done by.

It's been seven long years since the Oilers drafted him 31st overall in 2002, and the 25-year-old netminder is still a mystery -- through no fault of his own.

First, there were those wasted seasons in the minors, when the Oilers got caught without an AHL club of their own and had to ship him off to somebody else's, where there was little interest in developing Edmonton's goalie for them.

And when he finally did make it to the National Hockey League, he got caught in a three-goalie rotation that wiped away the first three months of his season.

When Edmonton finally sent Mathieu Garon to Pittsburgh, Craig MacTavish let Dwayne Roloson run off 36 straight starts.

Another wasted season.

Now they've got Nikolai Khabibulin signed to a four- year deal and he's got Devan Dubnyk breathing down his neck.

If anyone has the right to feel frustrated, victimized or, worst of all, ignored, it's Deslauriers.

He's not, though.

Instead, he is remarkably patient and philosophical about his long and lonely road to training camp.

"My goal was to play in the NHL, to play for the Oilers," said Deslauriers, who was the best Oiler on the ice for most of last night's game in Vancouver.

"Every year there is something different that is out of your control. It's how you battle through it. Yes, I've been through different situations, but all you can do is take the positives out of it; you don't take the negatives.

"Last year being my first year, you don't know what to expect.

"Then we started the year with three goalies. That's hockey. When you look back on it, it was an experience for me. Last year is last year. I'm focusing on this year."

If all goes according to plan this season, Deslauriers will finally get an honest chance to show the organization what he can do.

Backup goalie won't be a throwaway position on the Oilers this year.

He's not backing up Roberto Luongo or Miikka Kiprusoff and only playing eight nights a year. Some 20 games, easily the difference between making the playoffs and not, will rest on his shoulders.

"Our intention is not to have Khabibulin play 78 games," said head coach Pat Quinn.

"I don't think that's in our team's best interests, nor his, so whoever is No.2 is going to get some playing time."

Finally.

"I never think about predictions," said Deslauriers. "If you look at last year, I was supposed to have something like that (20 games), and at the end of the year how many games did I have?"

Not that he's complaining.

"I know where I'm going, I know where I want to be, but the bottom line is that it's a process," he said.

"They say there's a million roads that lead to Rome. Some are harder, some are easy. Some are long, some are short, but if you stay on the road you will get there.

"My goal is to stay here. Maybe I had a tougher road than somebody else, but that's hockey.

"No matter which road you take, if you stay on the road you'll get there."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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