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Tencer's Blog: Talking 'tenders

Dan Tencer examines the goaltending situation following Nikolai Khabibulin's placement on the IR

Friday, 19.11.2010 / 2:05 PM / Blogs
By Dan Tencer
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Tencer\'s Blog: Talking \'tenders
Carolina Hurricanes' Tuomo Ruutu (15), of Finland, tries to score on Edmonton Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Raleigh, N.C., Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
It wasn't supposed to happen like this, but the plan to get Devan Dubnyk some more action between the pipes had already been put into place.

Oilers Head Coach Tom Renney and General Manager Steve Tambellini addressed the lack of starts for Dubnyk over the last couple of days, with the ultimate decision seeming to be a three-to-one ratio going forward in terms of starts for Khabibulin and starts for Dubnyk. For now, that plan is on hold, as it appears to be a lock for Dubnyk to start at least four games in a row as Khabibulin has been placed on Injured Reserve with a groin injury.

Since the Olympic break last year, Dubnyk has emerged as the second best goaltender in the Oilers system right now and, for the first time, will be provided an opportunity to take the starter's job and run with it.

Dubnyk has appeared in just 23 NHL games, a mere 1276 minutes played, but has looked strong in two previous starts this season. Dubnyk is a large goaltender who is strong positionally and has an icy cold disposition when it comes to handling adversity.

The knock in the past has been a propensity to give up a bad goal more often than he should, but he's demonstrated himself to be a more than capable option in goal on a semi-regular basis. Now it's up to him to prove that he can be a reliable option on a regular basis.

THE DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES

Nikolai Khabibulin deflects a shot from the Chicago Blackhawks during second-period NHL hockey game action in Edmonton on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Ulan)
It was about this time in November of last season that Khabibulin played his final game of the year before succumbing to a back injury that eventually required season-ending surgery. He played 18 games before that happened, compared to 15 games this time around.

Though the injury certainly doesn't sound as serious as the one that stole the Oilers MVP away from the team last year, the group is most certainly better equipped to handle the loss this season than they were last season.

Devan Dubnyk has 23 games of NHL experience under his belt, versus none at this time last year. Veteran goaltender Martin Gerber is in the mix, whereas last year the tandem without Khabibulin was very young and inexperienced with Jeff Deslauriers as the other part of the battery.

Speaking of Deslauriers, he's a year older, too, and is able to provide a solid option for the AHL team in Oklahoma City. Last season, the ripple effect of the Khabibulin injury left the farm team crippled between the pipes. As they attempt to turn things around down south as well, the ability to stay strong in goal is a major improvement.


THE CALL-UP

When it was announced that Khabibulin wouldn't be able to play for at least the next week, many fans assumed the next announcement heard would be that Jeff Deslauriers was being recalled from Oklahoma City.

Let's be clear, they absolutely could have made that move, bringing Deslauriers up on an emergency basis. The fact is simply that it wouldn't have made any sense. Why have Deslauriers in the NHL sitting on the bench when he could be in the AHL playing games?

As a free agent at the end of the season, it seems highly unlikely that Deslauriers will be returning into the Oilers organization, but the right move for a goaltender still short in the experience department is always to err on the side of getting him game action. It isn't going to happen at the NHL level, since Dubnyk has been selected as the number two who could be a number one moving into the future.

I would think there might also be some hesitation to inject any life into the Dubnyk/Deslauriers debate after the choice was finally made earlier this month.
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