Dwayne Roloson is scheduled to have one of the easiest jobs in sports this winter: back-up goaltender for the Buffalo Sabres.
The pay is great, there's travel to North America's most glamorous cities, and the view of National Hockey League action is terrific. The only drawback is that you don't get to play very often, as starter Dominik Hasek sees almost all of the action.
"I knew that coming in," said Roloson, who was in the nets for the first two periods of the Sabres' 3-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators here Tuesday night. "Backing up Dom is a great honor. . . . I'll try to outwork him in practice, which probably is hard to do with his work ethic. But it will only make myself better. I'll use it as a tool that might be able to prolong my career."
Roloson signed with the Sabres over the summer. He is expected to replace Steve Shields, who was traded to the San Jose Sharks in June. Roloson became a free agent on July 1 after the Calgary Flames opted not to re-sign him.
"Basically, I didn't get a qualifying offer by Calgary," the 28-year-old goalie said. "They had four or five guys in the system, and they said I was the only guy that didn't have a contract. Instead of re-signing me and creating a logjam, they just let me go.
"We looked around to see what was going to be the best opportunity for myself to get better. I might not be able to play as much as I did last year, but at least I'll learn here. I had a couple of opportunities, but I thought this was the best one. Being from the area (he was born in Simcoe, Ont.), I thought it would be a great opportunity."
Roloson spent the first four years of his professional career with the Flames' organization. He was in Calgary for most of the past two seasons. Roloson played in 39 games for the Flames, recording an 11-16-8 record with a 2.99 goals-against average. However, he never could claim the No. 1 job there. In fact, no one could.
"They never stuck with anybody," Roloson said. "They never gave anyone any confidence. They'd lose a game, 1-0, and it would be the goalie's fault no matter what. It's a good thing and a bad thing. It makes you work harder, but then all of a sudden when it gets redundant you lose focus and you lose concentration so that you try to do things out of your control. As a goaltender you can't be like that. You have to stay positive and focus on the puck. That wasn't happening in Calgary with anybody."
Most of the Sabres were strangers to Roloson when he arrived. But that changed on the trip to Austria, where the team opened training camp.
"Things have been pretty good. I think the trip to Austria was the best thing for that," Roloson said. "The guys got to know each other's personalities, so that was a key. It was great."
Preseason is the time for goaltenders not named Hasek to get in some work, and Roloson has been busy. He's taken part in every game so far, and acquitted himself well for the most part.
"I thought he played extremely well in Europe," coach Lindy Ruff said. "I don't think it's fair to evaluate him coming back from the Austria trip (against Toronto on Sunday). The way everyone felt (because of jet lag) made it a tough situation. It didn't seem like he was mentally sharp, and physically he looked a little sluggish. But in the Tampa Bay game and the Klagenfurt game, he made eight or nine great saves and he looked really good."
Roloson was the only reason the Sabres were even close after the first 40 minutes Tuesday night. He stopped 23 of 24 shots, and had absolutely no chance on the 24th. Bruce Gardiner scored on a two-on-zero break at 6:16 of the first period. The Senators had all kinds of chances after that but couldn't bounce the puck into the net.
Ottawa had more success on Martin Biron in the third period. Radek Bonk scored from the slot at 8:48 on a power-play goal, while Steve Martins tallied on a short-handed breakaway at 15:44. Biron did stop 16 of 18 shots in a busy 20 minutes of play.
Roloson probably will see plenty of action until Oct. 10, when the regular season begins. Then he'll be told to take a seat for most of the next 82 games, barring injury.
"Whenever they tell me I'm playing, I'm going to go out and try to win the game," Roloson said. "Hopefully, you can get a couple of opportunities early in the season."