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Rosa flourishing in first season with Moose

by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com

Marco Rosa‘s new teammates in Manitoba this season greeted him with the proper degree of smugness.

Rosa was a member of the Houston squad that fell to the Moose in the Western Conference final playoff series last season. Rosa, a center, subsequently signed with Manitoba as a free agent in the offseason. Some of the Moose reminded Rosa of that postseason result, playfully suggesting that it was too bad Rosa and the Aeros missed out on a bigger playoff paycheck by not going further.

"They’re the guys who knocked you out of the playoffs. They don’t let you forget it, that’s for sure," Rosa said.

Funny how things work, though, as even in defeat, Rosa bettered himself at the bank. His strong all-round game against Manitoba in that series — including a goal and three assists — helped land him that new deal.

"I know that’s what probably got me the job in Manitoba, the way I performed in the playoffs against them last year," he said. "Once it gets to playoff time, eyes are centered on you. General managers are looking to see what makes those teams successful. I was on a team that was able to go far in the playoffs."

Rosa, 28, isn’t waiting until the postseason to showcase his evolving skills. He’s been turning heads his way all season.

Originally signed as a defensive-minded forward, Rosa is earning top-line minutes and leads the Moose with 45 points (19 goals, 26 assists). Those numbers already surpass the 16-24-40 he had for the Aeros last season.

"They didn’t know what they were going to expect from me. And they were clear on that," Rosa said. "More than anything, it (offensive improvement) is just doing the right things at the right time. Sometimes you try to be too pretty when you are younger. You try to do too much to impress someone. I think I’ve always had the offensive side of me. I just haven’t had someone to rely on me for it."

That hasn’t been a problem with the Moose. Manitoba’s offense ranks 25th in the AHL, making the same player who worked so hard to sink the team’s season last year a key factor in sustaining its playoff hopes in 2009-10.

"It’s definitely refreshing for me to be scoring goals, making plays, doing the things I personally enjoy doing the most," he said. "It (scoring) is not one of those ‘a-ha’ moments. Sometimes, it just comes time. More than anything, you want an opportunity to become a better player. That’s what they’ve offered me this year."

Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com. Read today’s complete column here.