Originally created 06/04/06

Journeyman Roloson has been a bargain for Oilers

GREENBURGH, N.Y. - Dwayne Roloson is playing like a rookie goalie, and the Edmonton Oilers couldn't be happier.

Roloson's travels have taken him around the NHL and to the Stanley Cup finals once before. He was a backup with the 1999 Buffalo Sabres, but now is the workhorse for the Oilers, who have made the championship round largely because of him.

The road to Edmonton began in early March. Minnesota - for whom Roloson made the All-Star team in the 2003-04 season - signed No. 1 goalie Manny Fernandez to an extension and traded Roloson to the Oilers for a conditional draft pick and a first-round pick this year.

Roloson overcame a shaky start to help the Oilers clinch the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference. In the playoffs, he has played in all 17 games with a goals-against average of 2.22 that has carried the Oilers into the finals for the first time since 1990.

That didn't seem possible when he lost his first three games with the Oilers before beating his former Minnesota teammates on March 14.

"It was tough, but at the same time I had a talk with (Edmonton coach Craig) MacTavish and I told him I had only played three games since January and it was going to take me some time to play the way I know how to play," Roloson said Saturday.

"He said, 'We've got 20 games and that's all we have to worry about, to get the playoff spot.'"

While getting ready for Monday's Stanley Cup finals opener against Carolina, the 36-year-old Roloson took nothing for granted. He acted as though the season was young, going through repeated drills with goalie coach Pete Peeters at the New York Rangers' training facility.

"To have a guy that is as receptive as Rolie, at the level that he's at right now, is a great example and great role model to everybody," MacTavish said. "He's a sharp guy, and he reads his game very well and knows the things he needs to work on."

That is probably the only parallel that kind be drawn between Roloson and Carolina rookie netminder Cam Ward.

The 22-year-old Ward rose quickly to prominence when he became the second goalie in NHL history to win his first seven playoff starts. He has slowed somewhat, losing three of five starts during one stretch and giving up some playing time to Martin Gerber - the Hurricanes' former starter.

Roloson has emerged from comparative obscurity to get within four games of his first Stanley Cup title.

He is one of the few Oilers with Cup finals experience, though he got his by sitting on the bench behind Dominik Hasek for Buffalo in 1999. Before that, he shuttled between Calgary and St. John of the American Hockey League and had another AHL stint with Worcester before landing with Minnesota.

Roloson's personality has won over his teammates.

"Everything kind of rolls off his back, whether you're up by four goals or down by two or three goals," said defenseman Chris Pronger. "He's been a wall back there for us."


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