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Edmonton Oilers netminder Mathieu Garon enjoying starter's role

NHL.com @NHL

EDMONTON - His numbers, his coach and the depth chart say he's first in line in a crowded crease with the Edmonton Oilers, but Mathieu Garon isn't of the mind to rely on that.

So, while Garon begins this season as coach Craig MacTavish's go-to guy in goal ahead of Dwayne Roloson and rookie Jeff Deslauriers, you won't find him resting on the accomplishments that put him first in the puck-stopping pecking order.

After eight seasons spent trying to establish himself as a bona fide NHL starter, Garon will approach Wednesday's start against the Anaheim Ducks the way he always does - like he has something to prove.

Confident? Yes. Complacent? Never.

"I'm never satisfied," said Garon, who frustrated Colorado on Sunday with a 31-save performance in a 3-2 win in Edmonton's season-opener. "It's just my experience that brings me there.

"From where I've been and what I've seen, there's always somebody who's going to say you're not that good, you're not a winner, stuff like that. That's why I'm never satisfied and why I want to be better."

Signed to a two-year deal as an unrestricted free agent in July 2007, Garon is a bargain among NHL starters. He was paid US$1.2 million last season and will earn $1 million this season.

Garon, 30, went 26-18-1 with a 2.66 goals-against average, a .913 save percentage and had a 10-0 shootout record in 47 games last season, wrestling the starting job from Roloson.

"I questioned the goaltending a little bit," MacTavish said. "Until a guy does it a number of years in succession, it's always a little unproven. Matty had a great year.

"There's a question whether he can repeat it, but they've all answered that question. They're on top of their game - Mathieu in particular - but Jeff played very well through pre-season, as did Roli. I'm very comfortable with the position right now."

After playing behind Jose Theodore with the Montreal Canadiens for four seasons, Garon thought he'd made it as a starter with the Los Angeles Kings in 2005-06, when he posted a 31-23-6 record in 63 appearances.

But Marc Crawford took over from Andy Murray as coach and deemed Dan Cloutier his No. 1 stopper. Garon played just 32 games in 2006-07. Then along came the Oilers and another chance.

"The chance is there," Garon said. "I read where (MacTavish) said I have the ball and I just have to run with it. That pretty much describes how it is."

Garon knows an encore could earn him an extension worth more than all of his previous contracts combined, but with how things soured in Los Angeles and then took off with the Oilers, he's acutely aware how quickly a situation can change.

"The thing I feel I have is more of a chance," said Garon, who was signed as a backup to Roloson.

"I'm No. 1 at the beginning of this year, but you have to prove yourself all the time and there's no guarantees. Last year I was supposed to play 20-25 games and it all changed in a couple months."

With the capable Roloson and the promising Deslauriers, MacTavish has options. For now though, Garon's the guy.

"That's up to him to determine over the long haul," said MacTavish, asked if Garon has proven he's capable of being the clear-cut starter.

"There aren't too many guys who are going to give you better goaltending than he gave us the other night."

Dustin Penner, who saw lots of Garon with the Kings when he was with Anaheim, said he never realized how good the native of Chandler, Que. was until they both donned Edmonton uniforms.

"It seems he's getting better every day," said Penner. "It's like he's emerging as a true No. 1 goaltender. Our home opener was a prime example of that.

"When I was with the Ducks, we never really saw Garon as a No. 1. He's found himself here. He was in Montreal, then Los Angeles, but it's all timing. This, it's exciting to watch."

Garon, who has 186 NHL games on his resume, said he's just focused on his next game against Anaheim.

"It's not about proving it to myself. I know I can do it," Garon said. "I'm just trying to prove to everybody who still has doubts in me.

"It's my turn now. Sometimes, you only have one chance to do it and you don't want to lose it."

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