One Devil due back tonight: Brian Rolston excited to get back on ice

December, 4, 2008
Imagine for a second being in Brian Rolston's shoes, er, skates, for a second.

The New Jersey Devils handed you $20.25 million over four seasons (OK, that part I really like), and you go out and get injured within the first seven days of the regular season. Then, you sit out the next 18 games. Urgh. Not that it's your fault you crashed into the boards and suffered a high-ankle sprain, but it's a terrible feeling because you're so anxious to live up to expectations with new teammates and a new coach.

"It is tough, especially when you go to a new team," Rolston told this week. "They bring you in to try to help the team and then you're out after four games. But I also feel fortunate that it happened when it did because we have the majority of the season left, and obviously the most important part of our season."

Rolston is back tonight when the Devils face the Flyers in Philadelphia. To say he's pumped is an understatement. He used the word "excited" four times during our interview. He's just not very good at the whole injured thing.

"Especially with my past record, I haven't missed many games," Rolston said. "I think I've missed like three games in the last three seasons [in fact, he's missed only five games in the last six seasons before this campaign]. So, for me, it was very foreign. With an ankle, it was just a freak accident going into the boards. It's just one of those things you have to accept."

Rolston said the key was fighting the urge to come back too fast.

"I've been very cautious," he said. "The thing is with ankle, after two weeks, you're walking pretty good and you're thinking, 'Oh yeah, I think I can play.' But you're not even close. [GM] Lou [Lamoriello] has been real patient. Although frustrating, you have to rest and make sure your body heals. Ankles are so integral and play such a huge part in your skating."

For a Devils team always struggling to score, getting a four-time 30-goal scorer back in the lineup is huge. Of course, he wasn't the biggest injury of the season. Seeing superstar goalie Martin Brodeur go down about two weeks after him was tough to watch.

"Oh gosh, yes, for sure," Rolston said. "And we had seven guys down at one time. It was just getting ridiculous. Lou was saying he's never seen anything like it. But that speaks to our character and the depth or our team. We kept our heads above water. Our young guys have really carried us."

Despite the absence of Brodeur and Rolston, among others, the Devils have remained in the playoffs mix at 12-8-2. That's a sign of a playoff-caliber team.

"Our goaltending, both guys have come in and played well," Rolston said. "We're a hard-working team, we pride ourselves on being defensively responsible and not given up big shot totals. But our goalies have been great. Obviously, missing Marty, a Hall of Fame goalie, that's tough, but the guys have done a great job."

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer



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