Missing MacT

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

It was a strange sight, the Oilers in action without head coach Craig MacTavish behind the bench.

And it looked just as strange from behind the bench.

With MacTavish back in Ontario with his ailing mother, assistants Craig Simpson, Billy Moores and Charlie Huddy were left to run the ship.

"It's never good," Simpson said of the circumstances. "Mac is such an important part of the team - it's his team. I think the guys really draw a lot of emotion off of Craig. Our thoughts were with him and his mother and the family."

They wanted a win for a number of reasons, not the least of which was for their coach.

"The guys really responded with a tough effort in such an important game," said Simpson. "You know Mac, it's a difficult time for him to be away from the team, but it was really important for him to be with his family. I thought the players all sucked it up a little bit and gave a little bit extra and were able to come up with a huge win for us."

Any added pressure or nerves having to switch up the lines and make the split-second decisions?

"The one great thing about Mac as a head coach is he gives all of us a lot of responsibility," said Simpson. "From a game preparation (point of view) I don't think anything changed for all three of us. I think it was business as usual.

"I was really happy with the way all the guys were really attentive on the bench. We tried to limit the amount of chaos that was there and the guys responded really well."

MacTavish is expected back before the All-Star break, and perhaps for tonight's game.

Roli in a groove

Despite nine seasons in the NHL, Dwayne Roloson has never played more than 50 games in an NHL season - but he's rapidly closing in on that benchmark and if all goes well will shatter his personal record by about 15 games.

And while it's looked at times like fatigue is catching up with him, he turned in one of his best games of the season Tuesday in Minnesota, winning 2-1 despite being outshot 29-18.

"I got a few lucky breaks, pucks hitting posts through screens and our defencemen making some key blocks," said Roloson, who didn't seem all that worn out, or concerned about the workload, in his 41st game of the season. "I'm just playing the same type of game I've been playing."

He's started nine in a row, and 17 of the last 19, and expects to be ridden hard down the stretch. "We needed him to play more than he ever had before, but he was aware of that," said assistant coach Craig Simpson. "That's why he signed here."

True. Roloson relishes the undisputed starter role, so he's not about to gripe about his schedule.

"It's easier to play when you're playing all the time because you get in grooves," he said, adding he's made a concerted effort to keep himself fresh. "You just have to take more time off from the ice, making sure you're doing everything to be mentally and physically ready to play every night."


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