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Rolston playing catch-up with Isles

New Jersey Devils' Brian Rolston (12) is congratulated

New Jersey Devils' Brian Rolston (12) is congratulated by teammates after scoring against the New York Islanders during the second period. (March 6, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

Ready. Or not.

The Islanders' season starts in four days and veteran forward Brian Rolston, acquired from the Devils in a late-July trade, has parachuted into the mix after missing all of the team's preseason games while rehabilitating a groin injury.

Rolston, 38, returned to a full practice session Monday and "felt OK." The idea is for the youthful Islanders to take advantage of Rolston's 15 years of NHL experience, his mentoring potential and his efficient work on the power play. All reasonable expectations, except that Rolston currently is in catch-up mode.

"We're going to go through some things I need to get a little sharper on," Rolston said, "but other than that, I feel good physically. That's the first step."

This may not be quite like riding a bike, but both Rolston and coach Jack Capuano are confident in Rolston's muscle-memory skills.

"Everybody needs training camp," Rolston said. "Regardless, young or old. I had to get physically right, and I have this week to get my feet wet a little bit.

"It'll take probably a couple of games to really get comfortable. Timing, things like that, catching passes. It's such a fast league now, guys being on you so fast, it's making those little plays that maybe aren't there right away. It's almost something you know you've had, but has to come back to you.

"And it will."

Plus, there is a change in scenery. Rolston has played with four other teams, including two tours with the Devils, but arrived on Long Island as a virtual stranger to this group. He was a Devils teammate of second-year Islanders defenseman Mike Mottau and veteran forward Jay Pandolfo, who remains in camp as a non-contract tryout.

"But that's about it. Steve Staios [the free-agent defenseman tryout just signed to a contract Friday] and I are from the same draft year," Rolston said. "So there's common ground there.

"I'm in a bit of a new system here. I'm going to be learning more in the next few days, and playing with new linemates. But I'm here to help this team win on a nightly basis. I'm excited about that. I'll be ready to go on Saturday."

Notes & quotes: The Islanders must trim five players from their current 28-man roster to meet Wednesday's league deadline. Apparently safe, despite suffering a groin injury Friday, is rookie winger Nino Niederreiter. "If he continued on the pace he was going," Capuano said, "he would've been where he needed to be on opening night, and there's still a chance he could be there." Capuano said Niederreiter and forward Trevor Gillies (groin) are expected to miss up to seven days and defenseman Milan Jurcina (groin) is "day to day."

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