The beat-up New Jersey Devils are finally getting healthy.
Brian Rolston, who missed four weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a sports hernia, returns to the Devils tonight at they face off against the Edmonton Oilers at the Prudential Center.
Rolston had surgery on October 14 in Philadelphia to repair the injury, and was expected to miss between four and six weeks. Today marks four weeks and a day since the injury. He hasn’t played since the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on October 9.
The left-winger is excited for his return to the lineup.
“I’m excited,” Rolston told Tom Gulitti of the Bergen Record during today’s morning skate. “It’s good to be back. It’s fun to be with the players. I’m ready to go. I’m still going to probably need some time to get my timing back in the first couple of games, but, as far as my health, it’s good and I’m ready. I’m just happy to be back to try to help and just be part of the team.”
Rolston will skate on the third line tonight with Dainius Zubrus and David Clarkson. The Devils will look for Rolston to help improve an anemic offense. New Jersey ranks last in goals for (29) and power play goals (four).
Rolston, a perennial 30-goal scorer with the Minnesota Wild, has struggled since signing with the Devils two years ago. Rolston admitted he hasn’t performed to the level expected.
“I signed a big contract. There’s no question about that,” Rolston said to Gulitti. “And I haven’t had 30-goal seasons ever since. I don’t think that my time here has been ideal. I come in and I get an injury right away on my ankle and I’m behind the eight ball right off the bat. I come back and (score) 20 goals last year. Is that to the level (expected)? Who knows? But it’s certainly not to the level that I produced in Minnesota. I’m very aware of that and I’m sure everybody is.”
The Devils had plenty of offense on Wednesday, but defensive lapses cost them in a 5-4 shootout loss against the Buffalo Sabres Wednesday night. The Devils held three leads in the game, but let each slip away. Tyler Ennis scored in the third period to tie the game, and the teams remained scoreless through regulation and the overtime period. Thomas Vanek put the Sabres ahead in the shootout, but Jamie Langenbrunner answered right back. In the fourth round, with the teams tied at 1-1, Derek Roy beat Johan Hedberg to give the Sabres the 2-1 advantage. Ilya Kovalchuk had the chance to keep the Devils in the game, but he lost the puck on his attempt and never got a shot off on Jhonas Enroth.
When asked what happened on the shootout attempt, Kovalchuk said, “The puck rolled off my stick. That’s what happened.”
The Devils, still winless at home, have a golden opportunity to break their losing streak tonight against the struggling Oilers. Edmonton has been outscored, 13-3, in their past two games and lost four of their last five games. Nikolai Khabibulin hasn’t played well, and his stats (3,64 goals-against average, .890 save percentage) rank him among the worst goaltenders in the league. New Jersey, with ten goals in their past three games, could keep their offense rolling tonight against the ‘Bulin Wall.
One of those guys looking to get the ball rolling will be Rolston. But the left-winger won’t try to do anything out of the ordinary.
“I’ve just got to go out and work hard and get my shots,” he said. “I’ve got to play the way I play and help out any way I possibly can.
“I’m back in to play and I can’t wait.”