The last time the Edmonton Oilers played at Rexall Place, they fashioned what coach Craig MacTavish dubbed a perfect game in a 4-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes to force Game 7 in the Stanley Cup final.
Last night's 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers in the Oilers' pre-season debut at home didn't match that gem in substance or style, but Dwayne Roloson provided a reasonable facsimile in his first game action since training camp began.
Roloson, an unwilling spectator for the "perfect game" because of a third-degree sprain of the MCL in his right knee suffered in Game 1 of the final, stopped 16 of the 17 shots he faced in just under 30 minutes of work last night before giving way to Jussi Markkanen.
Roli looks ready.
"I felt pretty good," said Roloson. "It's still early in the year and there's some things I want to work on out there. We've still got time here to work on things and try to get better."
Having put questions about the soundness of his knee behind him on the opening day of camp - it held up in a collision with Zach Stortini - Roloson, back in the fold with a three-year contract worth $11 million in his pocket, provided some answers about the state of his game against the Panthers.
Roloson, 36, looked very sharp in the 29:30 he played, giving up only a power-play goal to Martin Lojek in the first period. Later he robbed the Czech with a point-blank save with Florida on a two-man advantage in the second period. Markkanen stopped all 10 shots he faced in relief.
"It was great to see," said assistant coach Craig Simpson, who worked the bench while MacTavish watched from upstairs.
"Anybody who has fresh in their minds him limping off the ice in Game 1 of the finals feels great to see his athleticism carrying him out there. Tonight, he was exceptional. He looked, to me, mid-season sharp."
Lojek beat Roloson with a slapshot through traffic. Markkanen didn't give them a sniff, making goals by rookie rearguard Tom Gilbert and a third-period gimme on a goal-mouth tap-in by Ryan Smyth stand up in the first-ever pre-season meeting between the teams.
"It's different for a goalie," said Shawn Horcoff, who set-up Smyth's winning goal. "You can tell right away if he's got it or he doesn't and it doesn't matter if he's in game situations or not.
"As soon as he stepped on the ice with us two or three weeks ago you could tell he was feeling fine and his knee was good. He looked like the Roli we know."
Gilbert, 23, who came over from Colorado in the trade for Tommy Salo in March 2004 and is in contention for the sixth or seventh roster spot on the blueline, snapped a shot high past Alex Auld. Smyth scored his first goal of the pre-season on Florida back-up Craig Anderson.
"I just want to go out and work on things day in and day out," Roloson said matter-of-factly. "It's still early. Things are getting better. I'm happy. As long as we win, that's all that matters."
AROUND THE RINK ... The Oilers killed five, 5-on-3 Florida power play advantages ... Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, who was supposed to start against Phoenix in Winnipeg Sunday but took ill before the game and gave way to Devan Dubnyk, will get the call against the Coyotes tonight ... Markkanen is slated as the starter against the Flames in Calgary Thursday.