Oilers' race for backup goalie job up in the air with Khabibulin back

GYI0060076660-deslauriers-petersen-getty.jpgWith the reemergence of Nikolai Khabibulin in Edmonton, much in part thanks to him filing an appeal on his drunk driving conviction, the future of Jeff Deslauriers or Devan Dubnyk hangs in the balance. The role to be the backup goalie to Khabibulin is up for grabs and while both Deslauriers and Dubnyk did what they could last season while Khabibulin was out with a back injury, neither showed that they were ready to be “the man” as the interim starter.

Now it’s between those two again in the preseason and neither player has shown that they’ve got the edge on the job. Not even the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson could get Oilers coach Tom Renney to tip his hand.

Do the Oilers want a goalie who can be a solid backup to Khabibulin, who might only play 55 games? Or do they want a player who can be a No. 1, in time, because by the time the team gets really good as their young players develop, Khabibulin probably won’t be here?

“I think if you’ve got both (platforms) it’s best, but you do need a goalie who’s going to grow into the No. 1 role. Khabibulin won’t play forever,” said Renney. “I do believe we have some other goalie prospects (Olivier Roy) in the system. That said, whoever emerges, should be capable of taking the reins and running with it.”

Renney said he hasn’t tried to form an opinion, coming into camp, on which guy he likes best. But when you play as little as Deslauriers and Dubnyk are going to play in just six exhibition games this fall, the coach has to have some idea whom he likes best, doesn’t he?

“I’m trying not to do that. Look at the year we had last season. Is it fair to evaluate anybody under those circumstances? Especially a goalie. I think a lot of people were exposed.

“I’m trying to operate with a blank page,” said Renney.

Whoever loses the job will likely get sent to Oklahoma City in the AHL but they’ll have to go through waivers first. Matheson believes that Dubnyk is the favorite to win the job only because Deslauriers is more marketable to other teams to be traded. Sending him through waivers could lead to the Oilers just losing him without compensation.

What’s making one of these two all the more expendable is Martin Gerber’s presence in the system. With Gerber returning to the NHL/AHL this year, keeping both Dubnyk and Deslauriers makes no sense. After all, you don’t want to spend an extra roster spot at the NHL level for a third goalie and having two NHL-experienced goalies in the AHL crushes the team’s development of younger players.

Gerber makes for an instantly solid call-up from the AHL if Khabibulin gets re-injured or if his appeal is heard mid-season sending him to jail for a month. Gerber is more experienced and provides a bit more consistency than the younger pair fighting for a job now. That’s a lot of presumption there on my part, but like with the Oilers, they too know they’ve got to be ready for anything this season.

(Photo: Christian Petersen – Getty Images)

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    Wild lose Graovac (groin) for 2-3 weeks

    Tyler Graovac, Sam Reinhart,
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    After making the Wild out of training camp, Tyler Graovac got some bad news on Tuesday — head coach Mike Yeo said Graovac would miss the next 2-3 weeks with a groin strain.

    Graovac, 22, played just under 14 minutes in Minnesota’s crazy 5-4 comeback win over Colorado in the season-opener, but sat out Saturday’s win over St. Louis.

    At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Graovac was a notable physical presence in the Wild lineup, and is an intriguing prospect — he impressed with AHL Iowa last year, scoring 21 goals and 46 points in 73 games.

    Already without Eberle, the Oilers could also be missing Hall tonight

    Taylor Hall
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    Taylor Hall is sick and reportedly “doubtful” for tonight’s game in Dallas.

    Hall did not skate with the Oilers this morning. If he can’t play, Edmonton’s top two lines against the Stars could feature Ryan Nugent-Hopkins between wingers Teddy Purcell and Benoit Pouliot, followed by Connor McDavid centering Lauri Korpikoski and Nail Yakupov.

    The Oilers — forced to start the season without top-six winger Jordan Eberle — have scored just once in their first two games, losing 3-1 in St. Louis and 2-0 in Nashville.

    Edmonton returns home after tonight’s contest to play St. Louis on Thursday. Then it’s back out on the road for games against Calgary and Vancouver.