Nice job, kid. Take a seat.
Jeff Deslauriers came up with exactly the kind of performance the Edmonton Oilers needed from him with 40 saves in a 6-1 waltz over the Nashville Predators in Music City Monday, but he’ll be back on the end of the bench cheerleading for Nikolai Khabibulin when the puck drops against the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday. That’s exactly how it should be.
As good as Deslauriers had to be as the Oilers played free and easy in front of him after building a 4-0 lead in Nashville, there’s no sensible argument to be made, contrary to what some fans might think, for him getting the start against the Blackhawks.
According to radio play-by-play man Rod Phillips, coach Pat Quinn reiterated that sentiment today after he put the Oilers through their paces in practice at the United Center. Khabibulin’s the No. 1 guy, and he’ll get the start against his former teammates.
That much we know.
After writing about how mediocre Khabibulin looked in pre-season and his first couple of regular season appearances, it’s only fair to point out what’s been obvious to anybody with two eyes and half-a-brain — he’s been better each time out. Likewise, the 3-1-1 Oilers, despite some unlucky bounces here and there and a little too much loose play in Nashville.
Part of keeping Khabibulin on top of his game, and he’s not there yet, will be having the luxury of spelling him off with Deslauriers rather than riding him too hard, as was the case when Dwayne Roloson made 1,038 consecutive starts last season. It proved a recipe for fatigue with Roloson and rust for Deslauriers and was a situation that did neither one of them any good.
Quinn is slotting Khabibulin for 55-60 games this season, which seems a reasonable number for a 36-year-old goaltender.
So, while Deslauriers likely hasn’t bought himself any more starts with his sharp showing in Nashville, he’s earned Quinn’s confidence and will no doubt be slotted in again after four of five more starts by Khabibulin. The reward for a job well done is being kept in the rotation, not getting gravy starts.
This and that
— Quinn skated the same lines today as he did against the Predators, so, barring a last-minute shuffle, it’ll be status quo against the Blackhawks, assuming the old coach doesn’t move Zack Stortini to the first line in place of Ales Hemsky. Well, no.
— Steve Staios skated again today, but he’s still feeling the effects of the concussion that kept him out of the line-up against Nashville. He’s travelling with the team but is listed as unlikely to play tomorrow night. Expect to see Taylor Chorney again.
— Sheldon Souray isn’t with the team and there’s no firm word as to when he’ll be ready to play.
— This Marc Pouliot item from somebody named Derek Zona at The Copper And Blue: "Well, Pouliot has gone from full-blown "pubis thing" to a sports hernia, according to Pat Quinn.
"It is convenient in that this helps the Oilers manage their contract situation and may get them relief on LTIR. It’s yet another injury setback for Pouliot and likely spells the end of his time with Edmonton. I’m betting that he ends up in Columbus next season."
Really? Is that right? Is that so? Certainly, Pouliot’s injury and upcoming surgery buys the Oilers some time, at least until Fernando Pisani’s bad back comes around, but I’m not hearing from anybody in the know that this spells the end of his time with the Oilers.
When somebody’s got to go, and that time is coming, Robert Nilsson or Steve MacIntyre will draw the short straw before Pouliot does.
— Is it just me or are we seeing captain Ethan Moreau fade away as a force on this team right before our eyes? Some people have made a case Moreau hasn’t been a real factor for a long time. I’m having a difficult time coming up with a compelling argument to the contrary.
— At the same time, who is that fast, big guy wearing No. 27? Yes, it’s early, but more of the same and Kevin Lowe might yet escape the offer sheet cold sweats he’s endured the past two seasons.
— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.