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Rolston ready for Islanders journey

by Dyan LeBourdais / New York Islanders
Thursday afternoon the Islanders acquired veteran forward Brian Rolston from the New Jersey Devils in exchange for Trent Hunter. The 16-year veteran is pumped to begin his next venture, jumping at the bit to join the up-and-coming Islanders.

“The way the Islanders played the second half of the season, there is no reason why this team and this organization can’t take the next step and make a push for the playoffs,” Rolston said by phone on Thursday. “It’s time. The young players on this team have had the time to get their feet wet in the league and I think they’re ready. I think they’re excited about the team that they have. Garth (Snow) has done a great job putting this team together.”

Brian Rolston #12 of the New Jersey Devils looks on against the Montreal Canadiens during the game at the Prudential Center on April 2, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)
A four-time 30-goal scorer, Rolston was originally drafted by the New Jersey Devils in the first round (11th overall) of the 1991 Entry Draft. After nine seasons away from the Devils franchise, Rolston returned three years ago. This past season, the left wing scored 14 goals and 20 assists for 34 points in 65 games.

Known for taking the point on the power play and his big slap shot, the Flint, MI native hopes he’ll be able to showcase why he’s a Stanley Cup Champion, three-time Olympian and NHL All-Star.

“I hope I get the opportunity to play in a top two line capacity,” Rolston said. “I think I can help on the power play and hopefully on the penalty kill as well. I never really got that opportunity in New Jersey so I’m looking forward to that opportunity on the island.”

Islanders General Manager Garth Snow said he plans to take full advantage of Rolston’s abilities.

“He plays both on the power play and the penalty kill,” Snow said. “He’s a player that has been very effective over his career and the great thing about today is that we made our hockey team better. He’s always been a player who leads by example. He’s a first-class person off the ice and our young core can learn from a player like Brian.”

While he’s significantly impacted every team he’s ever been a part of, Rolston said he’s not going to walk into the dressing room and become the unequivocal vocal leader of the Islanders.

“I feel like the Islanders have such great young talent and I think this is John Tavares team,” Rolston said. “I’m going to come in and help in situations that I can because it’s always good to have a guy that’s been around as long as I have. You have a different perspective than the younger guys do. But at the same time, I think this is John’s team.”

These last three seasons with the Devils organization, the 6’2” 215-pound forward helped guide the youth movement. Made up of talented young forwards like Zach Parise and Travis Zajac, Rolston watched as they flourished into budding stars.

Rolston hopes the same will come to fruition this season on the island.

“When I first came to the Devils, those young players were probably very similar to Tavares and (Matt) Moulson, all these young players that are feeling their way through. Now it’s really time for those guys to lead the team. I think that’s come to completion in New Jersey and I think that the same thing is going to happen on the Island.”

Brian Rolston #12 of the New Jersey Devils skates during an NHL hockey game against the Montreal Canadians at the Prudential Center on April 2, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images)
But his belief isn’t unfounded. Rolston watched alongside the rest of the NHL last season as the Islanders transformed into a winning team.

“One of the things that struck me the most about the Islanders last year was the way they played together as a team,” Rolston said. “That’s why they were so successful the second half. If you have a good group of guys that really want to buy in and do exactly what the coach is asking, that’s what is important. Regardless of what a coach is asking, if everybody is doing what he’s asking you to do you’re going to be successful. I think you have a team like that in the Islanders.”

Being traded from New Jersey to Long Island, Rolston is staying within the Atlantic Division. Thus, he’s guaranteed to face his former team six times, an opportunity he said would help to finally showcase the promise of the Islanders young core.

“I certainly believe and expect to be competing against the Devils head-to-head,” Rolston said. “I certainly don’t feel that we are an inferior team to the Devils.”

Rolston also has a rich history with the Islanders former captain Doug Weight. The two first played together nearly two decades ago on the 1996 World Cup of Hockey Championship Team. Today, the two are long friends.

“I’m excited to be working with him,” Rolston said of Weight acting as advisor to the General Manager and an assistant coach. “I know he’s going to be working with us and I’m excited about that opportunity. I’ve always had a good relationship with him so that’s another great thing that the Islanders bring.”

Rolston will make his first trip to Long Island on Friday for physicals and testing, but is extremely looking forward to taking the next step and joining the Islanders for training camp in September.
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