No rest for Roloson

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

PHOENIX -- This is where Dwayne Roloson, according to most of the popular theories, was supposed to break down.

At 39 years of age, his legs, back and mind were supposed to tremble and snap beneath the kind of unrelenting workload Craig MacTavish is heaping on right now.

That's why they went out and got Mathieu Garon, after all, to help ease the burden on their aging starter.

And here they are a year later, with Garon out of the picture and Roloson a year older, taking the whip to their veteran war horse almost every single night.

11TH STRAIGHT START

His 3-2 shootout victory in Los Angeles Saturday, which came on a night the Oilers were outshot 41-21, was Roloson's 11th straight start. If he goes tonight in Phoenix, it'll be his 20th appearance in the last 21 games (27th in the last 29 games).

So much for easing the old guy's workload.

"Getting him some rest would be nice, but it's just not in the cards now," said MacTavish. "We're not in the position that we can put Jeff (Deslauriers) in with little experience and little playing time."

And these aren't easy minutes Roloson is logging. In the last three games he's faced 41, 38 and 39 shots, and still culled five of six possible points.

"You look at the box score and say 'How long can he handle it?' And I don't know that he can," said MacTavish. "But we're not in a position right now, that's he's playing so well, that we can take him out. A lot of nights he's our best player."

So they're giving him as many practices off as they can. Yesterday in Phoenix, they told him to stay off the ice, which Roloson says is as good as a game off.

"I feel good," he said. "We had a couple of days off (before L.A.) and I get another one today. When you have days off you have to make sure you take advantage of them."

There is still a long way to go, but so far fatigue isn't an issue.

"No, getting things balanced out by taking days off here and there always helps," said Roloson. "It's making sure you're taking care of yourself and doing things off the ice, getting your rest and making sure you're eating right to make sure you're able to play game in and game out."

This is a stark change from last season, when he only played 43 games all year. Or the start of this season, when Edmonton's three-goalie rotation limited him to 12 appearances in the first 27 games. Roloson's stock, as low as it could go in September, is on the climb. He's proving he can handle the workload and keep a team - even an offensively challenged one - in the playoff race.

"Last year, I put a lot of pressure on myself," said Roloson, who's sporting a 2.73 GAA and .916 save percentage that's 11th best among NHL starters. "I looked back at it over the summer, where did it go wrong, what went wrong, and I used it as a learning tool instead of dwelling on it."

The Oilers weren't even sure Roloson, who's only played more than 50 games in a season once (68 in 2006-07), could put in Miikka Kiprusoff-type hours. But after watching him play 15 of 16 games from Dec. 13 to Jan. 15, they felt comfortable enough to trade Garon to Pittsburgh.

NEVER WORRIED

All along, in mapping out this season's goaltending strategy, MacTavish says he never worried about Roloson's age, only his confidence.

"His game dropped off last year, it was difficult for him to deal with the fact that Mathieu was coming in and playing more games and a lot of nights playing better than him. He got emotionally handicapped.

"But he came in this year with a fresh attitude, everything was positive and really had a positive impact on the way he prepared himself and played the game, and he's played great."


Videos

Photos