He's got a Midas touch

DEREK VAN DIEST -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

Forget about beating the neutral-zone trap.

They key to beating the Minnesota Wild this year is keeping Brian Rolston off the scoreboard.

The Edmonton Oilers have been unable to do that, ergo they have had very little success against the Wild this year.

Yesterday Rolston scored the winning goal and added an assist as the Wild defeated the Oilers 3-2 at Rexall Place.

"He's got to be one of the top acquisitions made by any team," said Wild head coach Jacques Lemaire. "Can you imagine if we didn't have him this year, how many goals we would have?"

Rolston, 33, was signed by the Wild as a free agent following the 2003-2004 season. In his first year with the club, Rolston set a franchise record for points in a season with 31 goals and 44 assists in 71 games.

Prior to this season, his best point-total in a season was 59, a mark he reached twice with the Bruins.

"He's got a touch for scoring goals," Lemaire said.

"He shoots the puck and it finds its way into the net. He's a guy that we are very pleased with. We never thought he would score that many goals and be that effective for our team."

IMPRESSIVE

It's been a surprise for Rolston as well.

The Flint, Michigan, native has been impressed with the way the puck has been going in the net for him.

"Jacques has given me a lot of responsibility right off the bat," Rolston said. "I kind of took it and ran with it, getting a lot of playing time and playing on the power play and penalty kill and things like that. It gives you a lot of confidence.

"I think the year off probably did me some good. I was just excited about playing the game.

"The year off gave me the hunger back. Obviously you have to have that hunger, but the day-in, day-out grind of the National Hockey League takes its toll and it was a nice change to have that year off to rejuvenate you for the next year."

Rolston scored the game-winner by beating Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson through the pads on a two-on-one break midway through the third period.

"Initially I was looking to cut across until I saw my other guys coming," said Rolston of the goal.

"Then (Steve) Staios had to back off and when he kept backing away from me, I knew I had to shoot."

In seven games against the Oilers, Rolston has five goals and five assists. Its one of the reasons the Wild won all four games between the teams at Rexall Place this season, and lead the season series 5-2 with one game to play.

LOTS OF SPEED

"They have a lot of speed through the neutral zone and when we trap them, we're pretty successful at taking that away," Rolston said.

"We've also had pretty good goaltending against them and the timely goal. Last time we played here, we scored early and they were just chasing for the rest of the game."

Yesterday the Wild had to battle back after falling behind 2-1.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard, another player who excels against the Oilers, tied the game on a breakaway early in the third period.

He then set up Rolston for the winner.

Bouchard leads the Wild in scoring against the Oilers with four goals and eight assists in seven games.

"We just seem to play well," Rolston said. "That's a good hockey team over there. They are fighting for their lives just to make the playoffs.

"It was a playoff-style hockey game and it was nice to see us make the plays in the third period to get a win."

While the Oiler are fighting for a playoff spot, the Wild have long since been left behind in the race.

It's the only blemish in what has other-wise been a career year for Rolston.

"You're excited about the year you are having individually, but at the same time it's bittersweet," he said.

"Being in the playoffs and competing in the playoffs, that's what it's all about. That's where I'd like to be.

"If I wouldn't have as good an individual year next year, but we were in the playoffs, that would be exciting."


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