SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers' Dubnyk on track to be winner

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:31 PM ET

He’s been a bright spot in a season of misery, and has a chance to finish with a winning record on a losing team.

Heading into the final two games of the year, goaltender Devan Dubnyk could be the only member of the Edmonton Oilers to finish off as a winner.

He has a 12-12-8 record going into his final start, which will either come Friday, at home against the Minnesota Wild, or Sunday, in Colorado against the Avalanche.

“I’ve kind of thought about it all year,” Dubnyk said. “I’ve been around that mark for the entire year. Certainly it’s something that I try to take pride in and continue to work on.

“Eventually, when we’re going to make the playoffs, we’re going to all need to have winning records. I’ve just been trying to work on that all year and it’s certainly an opportunity to finish above (.500) coming up.”

Expected to caddie for starter Nikolai Khabibulin for most of the season, Dubnyk has been able to step out from the shadow of the former Stanley Cup champion and make a case for increased playing time.

“I’ve felt great all year, right from the start, and I’ve certainly picked up on some things throughout the year, which you have to do as a young goalie,” Dubnyk said. “You have to pick up on things that work and things that don’t. You get to see situations and different players. There are obviously a lot of great players in this league. I’ve had a chance to play against some pretty good hockey teams this year and I’m starting to feel pretty good about it, and not feel intimidated at all going up against some big teams. That’s important and, hopefully, I’ll just get a chance to keep getting more starts going forward.”

Originally selected by the Oilers in the first round — 14th overall — of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, Dubnyk has worked his way up through the system to where he’s on the verge of taking the reins from Khabibulin next season ­— or at the very least, splitting the workload.

His 2.73 goals-against average and .916 save percentage are superior to those of Khabibulin who, to be fair, hasn’t had a lot of help in front this season.

Dubnyk’s name is also being bandied about as a possible addition to Team Canada’s entry at the upcoming World Hockey Championships.

“Inasmuch as we had an idea of how much we wanted to play Devan, we’ve played him more,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “Circumstances have provided that chance and he’s made the best of it.

“With that, Devan has settled into be a very efficient goaltender. He uses his size well. He loves the opportunity to play and improve himself, but what’s really great, as much as he’s a competitor and he wants that net, he understands it’s a big-picture thing, too, and what it takes to be a teammate, which is equally impressive.”

Natural progression would suggest Dubnyk’s role with the club will increase as the team matures and, hopefully, begins to challenge for a playoff spot in the future.

Khabibulin has two years left on his contract following this season and it would not be off base to suggest the veteran will eventually become the team’s backup.

“We’re going to keep an open mind,” said Renney. “We’ll reflect on the season and I’ll talk to Freddie (goaltending coach Fredric Chabot) at length about that, and allow myself to make an informed decision beyond what I see.

“I don’t mind if there is a battle for starts. I think that’s a healthy situation now, and I think that goes beyond the goaltending position and into other positions on this team.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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