EDMONTON – Devan Dubnyk didn’t look like he was just hours removed from being chased from the net in the Edmonton Oliers’ forgettable home opener.
The Oilers goaltender appeared relaxed and confident at practice Wednesday afternoon, one night after being pulled after the first period of a 6-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks.
The 26-year-old from Regina, who was handed the Oilers starting goaltender job this season, said was relieved by the forgiving reaction of Edmonton fans to his shaky performance.
He said he’ll take his get-out-jail-free card and use it wisely.
“The fans took it pretty easy on me for how it went down,” he said after an Oilers practice designed to purge their thoughts of Tuesday’s loss and get them prepared for Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. “Certainly they were a lot better to me than the fans in Vancouver were to (Cory) Schneider…I’ll take that as my get-out-of-jail-free card and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
It’s a little surprising that the fans were so accepting, considering they booed the Oilers off the ice at the end of the first period, have questioned whether Dubnyk is capable of being a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL and had a vocal and mixed reaction to reports that Edmonton is one of the team’s interested in Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo.
Dubnyk, who has been in the Oiler system since he was drafted in the first round in 2004, admitted the questions can be frustrating but he doesn’t expect they’ll end any time soon.
“Maybe when I’m 39 or 40 and ready to hang them up,” he said. “I’m sure there’ll still be some trade rumours and questions about games I’ve played. It’s certainly frustrating some times but I’ve always said I feel confident in myself and confident I can do the job and I feel my teammates and the organization feel the same way. It’s not for me to worry about and I won’t. I’ll just go play.”
Dubnyk and head coach Ralph Krueger had a long chat before practice. While neither was saying what words were exchanged, Krueger was confident his goaltender will bounce back.
“He’s in a good space,” the first-year head coach said. “We’re in a process here and he’s in a process to take on this responsibility (to get the team into the playoffs). We feel good about him bouncing back. He’s done it in the past and I think he’s going to give us a great game against L.A.”
Krueger said Dubnyk, who will start against the winless Kings, will learn from the first-period disaster.
“We use the word experience but what is experience? Experience in going through tough situations and reacting to them in the right way, learning from then,” he said. “He’s going through that and he needs this experience to be a No. 1 goaltender. In a short season like this we all need to manage the disappointments as well as the games we enjoy.”
Dubnyk, who had a strong start in the Oilers 3-2 shoot-out win in their season opener in Vancouver on Sunday, said Krueger told him to forget about the outing and move on.
That’s easier said than done admitted Dubnyk, who said the excitement of the team’s home opener probably contributed to a poor start for the young Oilers.
“It’s a challenge you face once a year, really, that home opener,” he said. “You face that unique situation every year when you open at home, everyone’s fired up, you have the opening ceremonies and everybody’s standing around … you’re excited and you want to be great in front of everybody and you end up chasing the puck around. It’s something you have to find a way to deal with.”
It’s not just the Oilers who suffered through humbling home opening losses this season. About half the teams lost their home openers.
“You go around the league and there’s been some interesting results in the home openers,” Dubnyk said with a smile. “I don’t know, maybe they’ll start to skip the opening ceremonies to start the season.”
With the home opener out of the way, the Edmonton coaching staff took steps Wednesday to ensure the Oilers don’t have a similar start against the Kings.
“We purged before practice,” Krueger said. “There was a mental purge for the coaches first of all, for three or four hours. Then we passed on a condensed version to the players. With this skate we were moving forward already.”
NOTES: Krueger said F Ben Eager suffered a concussion in his fight Tuesday in Vancouver with Zack Kassian and will be out at least a week. … G Nikolai Khabibulin still hasn’t been cleared to play. Krueger said he’s been working on his fitness daily but doesn’t know when he’ll be ready to play. … D Theo Peckham underwent his physical Tuesday night but Krueger hadn’t yet see the results so didn’t know when he will be ready.