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Oilers fall to Avalanche

The Colorado Avalanche celebrate a goal during the second period of the Edmonton Oilers NHL hockey...

The Colorado Avalanche celebrate a goal during the second period of the Edmonton Oilers NHL hockey game against the Colorado Avalanche at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Friday, February 17, 2012. (CODIE MCLACHLAN/QMI AGENCY)

Robert Tychkowski, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:08 AM ET

EDMONTON - Devan Dubnyk knows better than anyone the enormous gulf between being the Oilers goalie of the future and actually being the goalie who plays for the Oilers in the future.

And he knows he hasn’t crossed it yet.

“Until you’re a Khabby or a Henrik Lundqvist or a (Miikka) Kiprusoff, you’re always going to be battling for a job,” said the 25-year-old keeper, who’s still trying to establish himself as the guy Edmonton will be leaning on when (if) they are ready to contend.

“There’s too many good goalies; this is the top level. Nothing is going to be handed to you. It’s not ‘We like you as a person so here is some ice time.’ It doesn’t work that way. You have to work and earn it. When you do get a start, it’s because you’ve earned it.”

On his latest audition tape, Dubnyk gave up three goals on 23 shots in a 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. He had no chance on the first two (a screened shot that picked the low corner and a back-door one-timer), but he turned the puck over trying to play it behind the net on Colorado’s third.

“The third goal was a nice shot, but if you asked me to do that again, in 100 times, I don’t think it happens,” he sighed. “I intended to put the puck behind the net because their forecheck was coming hard down the wall, and when I looked up, their guy was there.”

Dubnyk takes the loss, but on a night were there was virtually no run support — just a goal from Ryan Jones, his first in 21 games — not giving up the fourth goal, after it was 3-0 midway through the second, was an important step.

“Sometimes you get down three and you feel it’s kind of over, and then the fourth one goes in,” said the 6-foot-5 former first round draft pick (14th in 2004). “It’s not that you’re not battling, but maybe you kind of let your focus go elsewhere and once the fourth one goes in it’s over for everybody.

“With this team, we can score three goals, we can score five goals in a period. We got a big goal to make it 3-1 and it’s a hockey game going into the third period.

“You can’t throw away games just because you end up getting behind. Hopefully when I’m playing the majority of games one of these days, or years, (keeping them in games) is going to be important when we’re making a playoff push.”

Days or years is a pretty accurate range, because grooming a starting goalie is a process that can sometimes require the patience of a zen master. The San Jose Sharks gave up on Kiprusoff when he was 26, a year older than Dubnyk, and it probably cost them a couple of Stanley Cups.

In fact, there aren’t many stories where a young goalie comes out of nowhere, plays 65 games and never looks back. Most of their stories follow a longer, slower and more deliberate time-line. Like Dubnyk’s.

“This year I was looking forward and expecting to play a lot, but Khabby came out of the gate flying and that’s just how it goes sometimes,” said Dubnyk, in his third season with the Oilers. “The past little while I’ve had some good starts. There’s only so much I can do, I can only play as hard as I can when I get the chance.”

It would be nice if things were moving along faster (he’s only played 82 career NHL games), but so far neither netminder has proven himself to be head and shoulders above the other.

That’s what GM Steve Tambellini is looking for - a go-to guy, whoever it is.

“I think Devan has it in him,” he said in his recent pre-deadline media address. “He has a quiet confidence about him and he’s much more competitive than people think. I want to see him take the ball, compete with Nick. They’re both two good goaltenders who want the net.”

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

TWITTER.com/SUN_TYCHKOWSKI


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