Dubnyk offers hope

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:31 AM ET

EDMONTON -- The Oilers signed Nikolai Khabibulin for four years, but early indications suggest it won't take Devan Dubnyk that long to become a quality starter.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of this disastrous season is the fact the club's goalie of the future is getting a chance to play now.

And with every start, the Oilers' first-round pick, 14th overall in 2004, is looking better and better.

"I've felt better each game and I'm just trying to build off each of them," said Dubnyk. "The nerves are gone and that's the exciting part for me."

Dubnyk may be the only player in the Oilers' locker-room having fun this season.

He was not expected to be in Edmonton this year, instead pencilled in to spend another year in the minors. However, a back injury to Khabibulin opened the door for the Regina native to gain some NHL experience.

With the season in the dumps and the playoffs out of reach, the Oilers now have the luxury of developing the six-foot-five, 194-pound goaltender in Edmonton.

"I see good things in this young man," said Oilers head coach Pat Quinn. "And he fights back when things aren't going for him. In San Jose, we started well and then he put one in his own net. Then he missed the second one from a real bad angle, but he fought back."

Fans have already begun to recognize Dubnyk's role with the future of the organization.

They have started to chant his name after big saves.

It's something that has not gone unnoticed by the big goaltender.

"I'm just trying to earn my respect from them," Dubnyk said.

"They're obviously great hockey fans and they understand the game real well. I'm still new here and I'm trying to earn that respect and to hear them, it's great."


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