SUN Hockey Pool

New Battle shoes

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

Dwayne Roloson is familiar with the Battle of Alberta.

Having broken into the NHL with the Calgary Flames in 1996, the Edmonton Oilers' newest goaltender experienced the provincial rivalry first-hand.

This time around, however, it's a little different.

Apart from being on the other side, the stakes are higher when the Flames pay a visit to Rexall Place tonight (7 p.m.) to face the Oilers.

With a win, the Oilers pull within three points of the Flames in the Northwest division. A loss drops them seven points back.

"Back then, when I was in Calgary, we were always on the losing end of them," said Roloson. "Hopefully I can turn that around and make sure Calgary is back on the losing end of things."

In Roloson's days in Calgary, the battle had lost some of its lustre from the epic encounters of the 1980s: The Flames weren't very good.

While the Oilers finished seventh in the conference and knocked off the Dallas Stars in the first round of the playoffs that year, Calgary missed the post-season.

Now with the Flames in first place, the battle is back on.

"Now it's a different perspective," Roloson said. "Obviously these games are big games, for a playoff spot, for one, and for the pride of the province, for another.

"Watching them as an outsider, when I was in Minny, these games are so intense and so focused and I'm looking forward to it, that's for sure."

It's not as though things haven't been hot already for Roloson since coming over from the Wild.

He was expected to solve the Oilers' rotating goaltender problem. Yet, he needed four games to pick up his first win as an Oiler, defeating his former team 2-1 on Tuesday in Minnesota.

"We hadn't, prior to obtaining Roli, given up a lot of shots," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "Then we get him in and the first game he sees is the San Jose game (5-2 loss) and that could possibly be our worst game of the year in terms of the quality of chances we gave up."

The shot barrage continued in Columbus and Minnesota. In fact, the Oilers have been outshot in every game since Roloson took over. It's a change from when the Oilers were out-shooting opponents and still falling short -- a situation that prompted calls for a new goaltender.

"The quality of the chances have certainly worked against him," MacTavish said.

"We haven't been giving him the type of play in front of him that we need to."

Tuesday's win put the Oilers back into a playoff position and kept an angry mob from meeting the plane at the airport. A victory against the Flames tonight would go a long way to convincing people that the Oilers went out and got the right goalie.

"I can't worry about that, I just have to go out, play hockey and just give our guys a chance to win every night," Roloson said.

"That's all I'm trying to do, I'm not going to worry about anything else. I'm just going to do my best to try and stop the puck."

Despite the rough initiation, MacTavish did not hesitate in giving Roloson his fourth consecutive start on Tuesday.

"In talking to him, he felt more comfortable in the first game in Minnesota than he had in the previous two games," MacTavish said.

"When I heard that, there was no question that we were going to go back to him. If he had come to me and said 'Listen, I'm a little out of sorts here' -- it can be a tough emotional game going back against your former team -- but there was none of that."


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