MacTavish gives nod to Markkanen in Game 2

Updated: June 7, 2006, 11:02 PM ET
Associated Press

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Jussi Markkanen led the Edmonton Oilers onto the ice Wednesday night and took over the role as the No. 1 goalie for the Western Conference champions.

 Ty Conklin
Conklin

 Jussi Markkanen
Markkanen

The job unexpectedly came open when Dwayne Roloson injured his right knee bad enough to knock him out of the Stanley Cup finals. Roloson had played every minute of the Oilers' drive to the championship round until he was hurt with just under 6 minutes left in their series-opening 5-4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Monday.

Mystery and intrigue was everywhere in the hours leading up to Game 2 as the Oilers were tightlipped on who be in goal.

Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish was left to choose between Markkanen and Ty Conklin, who gave up the winning goal in the final minute of Game 1. Before the series, neither had played in weeks. Markkanen's most recent appearance was March 1.

"It is what it is. I'm not going to worry about it," Markkanen said. "You just try to relax and play your style of hockey. I have been preparing for this all the time that I haven't been playing."

Both goalies saw equal action Wednesday morning in the pregame skate. Conklin was the first to leave the ice, traditionally an indication that he would get the start.

That was just a decoy.

"I told the guy after the game. So, unless he's forgotten ...," MacTavish said and drew laughter. "They are goalies."

Conklin was thrust into a tie game Monday night with under 6 minutes left when Roloson was injured in a collision with Carolina's Andrew Ladd, who was checked into him by Oilers defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron.

With 31.1 seconds left, Conklin and teammate Jason Smith flubbed a puck behind the net. Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour got it and scored into an empty net -- capping the Hurricanes' comeback from a 3-0 deficit.

Now that Markkanen got the nod, he is expected to hold the job the rest of the series. MacTavish toyed with the idea of going with a platoon system but changed his mind during the first off day of the best-of-seven matchup.

"If we get into a situation where he plays well, great. If he doesn't, he's going to continue to play," MacTavish said. "We are going to play him sharp, and I can't be in a situation I was in during the course of the year where you're going back between 1 and 1a and never give them the opportunity to get confident."

Markkanen had been in one postseason game in his career, relieving Edmonton starter Tommy Salo on April 11, 2003, against Dallas. Conklin's playoff debut was Monday.

Conklin earned the win in the Oilers' regular-season finale on April 17.

"We had in our minds pretty early who it was going to be and all the factors factor into it," MacTavish said. "They've both been at similar levels for the last little while."

Markkanen is the fourth goalie to make his first postseason start in the finals. The most recent was Detroit's Hank Bassen in 1961 against Chicago.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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