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Oilers Watch: No need to panic yet

After the first four games of the 2008-09 campaign, the Edmonton Oilers looked like surefire contenders for a Northwest Division title.

Unfortunately, four losses in their next four games confirmed the road ahead won’t be nearly so picturesque for them.

Really, though, that’s exactly what many hockey observers expected – not only from this team, but the majority of NHL franchises. League parity is old news four years into the collective bargaining agreement, but it still factors heavily into the equation for every team not named the Detroit Red Wings.

And with the Oilers about to embark on a seven-game road trip, it’s only proper to assume more mixed results are on the way.

What other things can Edmonton fans expect to see this season?

First of all, there should be little doubt Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon will be splitting the goaltending duties.

Garon looked phenomenal in his first three games – as evidenced by his .940 save percentage – but positively porous in his next two (.820 SP). Meanwhile, Roloson stood on his head (1.95 goals-against average, .939 SP) in his first two appearances, yet received little in the way of goal support and still is looking for his first win of the year.

Considering the demand for goalies on the trade market isn’t at its all-time peak – and that Roloson’s age and salary will make it difficult to deal him regardless of his performance – Oilers brass almost assuredly will be stuck with the platoon system for the remainder of the season.

As well, it’s fair to assume Edmonton’s veteran forwards will be delivering more offense than they have thus far.

Erik Cole is currently on a pace that would see him finish with 10 goals and 21 points; that would represent his worst offensive totals of his NHL career. And winger Dustin Penner also is on course for a 21-point season. He’s averaged 26 goals and 46 points in his two full seasons in the league.

In sum, don’t fret just yet – about individuals or the team. There’s still a long way to go.

This column also appears in the Edmonton Metro newspaper.

Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

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