SUN Hockey Pool

Better with age

ROBIN BROWNLEE, EDMONTON SUN

, Last Updated: 7:31 AM ET

CHICAGO -- The doubters are dwindling.

Anyone who cast a sideways glance at Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe for signing Dwayne Roloson to a three-year deal worth $11 million in the off-season when he was coming off a playoff-ending knee injury and was just shy of his 37th birthday don't have much to say these days.

BEST START OF CAREER

Roloson is off to the best start of his career. With Friday's 2-0 win over the Dallas Stars, he is 14-8-2, equalling his total number of wins all of last season with the Minnesota Wild and Edmonton.

He has a 2.35 goals-against average, a .922 saves percentage and three shutouts.

He's been money in the bank.

"This year has just been an extension of last year," coach Craig MacTavish said.

"He gave us outstanding goaltending, obviously, throughout the playoffs and he's just picked up where he left off. He's super-professional. He's workmanlike in practice. He knows his game really well and is able to objectively critique his own game.

"That's such a valuable asset for any player to have, to not be under any illusions."

Roloson, 37, who made a career-high 50 appearances with Minnesota in 2002-03, has seen action in 25 of the Oilers 28 games and faced more shots, 718, than any NHL stopper except Roberto Luongo of the Vancouver Canucks (732).

With all that, as MacTavish suggests, Roloson isn't doing cartwheels over his performance thus far.

"You can't be too happy. You've got to keep on working to get better," Roloson said. "That's what I'm trying to do. It would be nice to win every game, even though, obviously, you can't."

Roloson is tied for second in the league with his three shutouts, just two shy of his single-season career high with the Wild in 2001-02. He ranks fifth in wins, seventh in save percentage and 10th in GAA. He's on pace to easily eclipse single-season bests for appearances, wins (23) and shutouts.

"Preparation is the biggest thing. It's half the battle," Roloson said. "Ninety per cent of the game is mental and making sure you're mentally ready for whatever comes in a game.

"You take care of the physical part by training. MacT has been great this year with knowing when I'm tired. He'll let me take a day off or a game off here or there. He can read it as well as I can. He's been great that way."

SMITH EARNS COAT

Jason Smith is wearing the team's coveted fur-trimmed trench coat going into tonight's game after Friday's win in Dallas, where he was plus-1, played 19:03 and had six blocked shots.

The hulking 220-pound Oilers captain squeezed into the retro-style coat after assuming it from 180-pound Jussi Markkanen, who earned it with his 3-1 win over Carolina. Smith, who was not long ago in double-digits in plus-minus, is now a minus-4 after going plus-5 in his last three games.


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