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Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk forced to be mobile to find practice time

Oilers netminder Devan Dubnyk, like most NHL goalies during the lockout, is constantly on the hunt...

Oilers netminder Devan Dubnyk, like most NHL goalies during the lockout, is constantly on the hunt for opportunities to practise all over the continent as there are few, if any, opportunities for goaltenders to find gigs in Europe's elite leagues. (David Bloom, QMI AGENCY)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

EDMONTON - Allen Iverson would not approve of Devan Dubnyk’s recent schedule.

The Edmonton Oilers goalie has been on the move for weeks, from Edmonton to Dallas to Phoenix to Calgary and then back to Edmonton for a few days until he can find his next destination.

Why?

To practise.

Seriously.

We talkin’ practice, man.

Not the game.

Practice.

Unfortunately for Dubnyk, and almost all NHL goalies, practice is all they’ve got. With their league closed for repairs and European teams unwilling to shelve their own netminders in favour of a tourist who could be gone in two weeks, there simply aren’t any games.

So they practise, man. Dubnyk has been hauling his goalie pads all over North America in search of ice with decent shooters on it.

“Pretty much,” sighed the 26-year-old keeper. “I’ve been flying all over the place, it’s been ridiculous. I text people I know to see if there’s a spot open and if there is, I pack up my stuff and go.”

Goalies don’t have a lot of options right now. Not even for practice. Sessions that can accommodate 20 skaters, usually only have room for two men in masks.

“It’s not fun. It sucks, actually,” said Dubnyk. “I’d like to be home in Edmonton, but every time I’m there I end up not skating for four or five days and I can’t be doing that. If the NHL gets going I’m going to have to be ready.

“So I’m back to Edmonton on the weekend and I’ll decide where I’m off to next.”

He’s currently in Calgary, getting some pretty good workouts in enemy territory.

“It’s a good group of guys who used to play in Europe and obviously a bunch of Flames guys,” said Dubnyk. “There’s coaches out there and stuff who run drills and it’s actually pretty good intensity. The ice is good and I’m able to get out early every day for about half an hour.”

Yes, it’s come to that, an Oilers goalie finding comfort in skating with Calgary Flames in November. But there just aren’t many, if any, options.

“I was talking to (Miikka) Kiprusoff the other day, he’s skating here, and he was saying there’s only a few goalies over in Europe,” said Dubnyk. “I’d certainly like to be, I’ve tried and nothing has come through.”

This isn’t the best way for a goal keeper to stay sharp, especially one who has yet to carry the load for an entire NHL season. Between Edmonton’s penchant for three-goalie rotations, and a coach who wouldn’t play him last year, Dubnyk’s collected more dust in his young career than he’d care to remember. Now this.

“It would be nice to just have a normal, full season,” he said. “That’ll be next year.”

In the meantime, practice makes somewhat less than perfect.

“You have to play games to get that feeling back, there’s only so much you can do in practice,” he said. “I’m sure every goalie will feel it when we come back, but it’s something we have to deal with. Everybody is going to be in the same boat.”

While he’s trained himself not to let outside influences impact his mental state on the ice, Dubnyk admits he can’t help it during the lockout. When things look good, he gets excited, when things look bad, his body language sags.

Since there is some progress being made in CBA negotiations, he’s allowing himself to be optimistic.

“There’s been a lot of ups and downs and unfortunately I do let it affect me,” he said. “It’s funny because you try and make yourself not do that in a hockey season, and I’m good at that on the ice, but not with this stuff; I’ve let myself get excited quite a few times.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but I’ve been doing that the whole time.”

Follow me on TWITTER.com/SUN_TYCHKOWSKI

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca


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