Trio a trial for Oilers netminders

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:30 PM ET

They're trying not to get frustrated with a situation that grows more irritating by the day.

Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk hoped they would not find themselves in a three-goaltender rotation by the time the regular season got underway.

Yet, three weeks into the year, they're taking turns as the gatekeeper while Nikolai Khabibulin gets all the starts for the Edmonton Oilers.

"Obviously the situation is different this year than it was last year for me," said Deslauriers. "But I've been in a three-goaltender situation before.

"In my first year I was here with Mathieu Garon and Roli (Dwayne Roloson). I knew what to expect because of that, and obviously it's not the best situation for anybody. But there's nothing I can do about it, my job is to be ready when I get the call."

Having three goaltenders has almost become standard with the Oilers.

It began the year after the lockout when they went through a trio of goaltenders during the season in Ty Conklin, Jussi Markkanen and Mike Morrison, trying to find someone that could stop the puck with any consistency.

Eventually, the Oilers brought in Roloson and rode him all the way to the Stanley Cup final.

Along the way, Markkanen and Conklin took turns being the backup and both were used during the final after Roloson was injured.

Two years later, Roloson, Garon and Deslauriers rode the three-goaltender rollercoaster to start the season. It ended with Garon eventually being traded.

"It's not a lot of fun for anybody," said Dubnyk. "But it's the situation that it is and you're going to get absolutely no good out of worrying about it, or thinking about it.

"Three goalies isn't ideal, but that's the situation presented to you and it's important how you react to it."

Both Deslauriers and Dubnyk admitted they would go crazy thinking about all the scenarios that have them in their situation and wondering how it will all play out.

Due to the nature of the Oilers early-season schedule, it could be a while before one of them gets a chance to play.

"Right now we're managing the situation because they're great people and it helps," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. "I'm going to have to come up with some type of formula by which they start to play.

"I think as the games intensify and there are more of them, then you can start to look at a playing ratio between Khabby and those two guys."

Because both Deslauriers and Dubnyk are on one-way contracts, the Oilers would risk losing one of them if either were sent to the minors. They would have to clear waivers on their way down and would be available to teams at half the price if one needed to be recalled.

Another reason the Oilers are hesitant is the status of Khabibulin's back.

The Oilers starter is coming off back surgery and the team would like to see how it holds up before exposing their backups to waivers.

"That's part of it," Renney said. "We have to make sure Khabby is capable of running with it.

"We've played a nice little schedule here where he's been able to maintain his cadence and has been fine. It'll be interesting to see how he holds out when we're playing three games in four nights or four games in seven, or whatever.

"We have to play real close attention to Khabby before we do something with the other two guys based on that."

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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