SUN Hockey Pool

Dubnyk had fun in debut

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:51 AM ET

It wasn't ideal, but Devan Dubnyk will take it.

After being in the minors for the past four years, the Edmonton Oilers goaltender was not about to get selective when it came to his NHL debut.

So as Jeff Deslauriers was getting shelled Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks, Dubnyk was getting ready.

"That's my job as the back-up," Dubnyk said. "It's certainly a tough game to jump into, but I was excited to get in my first one and get a feel for it. It certainly wasn't a great outcome, but I had fun out there."

He was the only Oiler that did -- apart from possibly Colin McDonald, who scored his first NHL goal in the 7-3 loss to the Canucks.

Dubnyk gave up three goals on 24 shots in his debut.

The Regina native was Edmonton's first pick --14th overall -- in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and is touted to be the team's future starter.

He entered Friday's game already down 4-0 as Deslauriers was beaten four times on 11 shots, three of which whistled over his shoulder.

"After the second one I started to get ready, just because it happened so quick," Dubnyk said.

"Then when the third one went in, you know if they score another one just as quick, you have to get him out of there. It's not fun as a goalie.

"They made some good plays, but it's not fun to sit in there and have pucks going by you like that.

"I actually thought we had a pretty good first shift, but then they came and they were coming hard.

"It's their home rink and that's what they do there. They made some plays and put the puck in the net and when you get momentum at home, it's a tough thing to stop."

Dubnyk got the call just over eight minutes into the opening period.

He was able to stop the first shot he saw, then the second and the third as the Canucks swarmed the Oilers, trying to get to the rookie right away.

"Yeah, it was nice to get that first save out of the way," Dubnyk said. "I felt pretty good out there, it was a lot of fun. The calibre of shooters is different for sure, but it's still about stopping pucks.

"You still play goal the same way. Obviously, there are some pretty good players that you have to be aware of, but as far as playing, you can't go out there and try to do different things just because the guys can shoot the puck better or make better plays.

"You have to go out there and be confident with what you can do and that's what I tried to do."

As the starter with the Oilers' AHL affiliate in Springfield, Dubnyk had a 9-8-1 record with a 2.77 goals against average and .924 save percentage.

He was called up to back up Deslauriers, who slid into the No. 1 spot when Nikolai Khabibulin went down with a sore back.

Dubnyk wasn't expected to get much playing time during his stay, but the circumstances changed quickly.

If Khabibulin is not ready to return in the near future, it's possible Dubnyk could make his first NHL start on the Oilers' extended road trip that begins Thursday in Detroit.

If that's the case, it was good that Dubnyk was able to get his feet wet in a situation devoid of any real pressure with the outcome, for all intents and purposes, already determined.

"It was strange after giving up that second goal ... you feel like it's only 3-2, but it's actually 6-3," he said.

"You try not to look up at the scoreboard. Even after the third goal, I thought I was playing pretty well. It's tough not to look up and see 7-3, but it didn't feel that way to me."

The Oilers took the day off yesterday and will be back on the ice today at home in preparation for the rest of their road trip.

Despite his bad outing, the Oilers will still be leaning on Deslauriers if Khabibulin is not ready to return.

"He'll bounce back," Dubnyk said. "He's here for a reason. He knows how to play goal."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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