SUN Hockey Pool

Kotalik fighting bad reputation

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:00 PM ET

CALGARY — On Monday, his future was up in the air.

Ales Kotalik’s tenure as a Calgary Flame was delayed again Tuesday morning when his flight to the Stampede City was cancelled.

All that will soon be forgotten if the former New York Rangers winger can find the same game that made him a hot commodity in the Sabres organization a couple seasons back.

“When he was in Buffalo, he was a really effective player,” said Flames head coach Brent Sutter. “He’s got good skills, works hard, can shoot the puck a ton. He’s a big guy, and now it’s just him coming here and letting him play, letting him play his game.”

After a rocky stint with the Rangers, Kotalik and Chris Higgins were officially shipped to Calgary just strokes before midnight Tuesday, with underachieving centre Olli Jokinen and sparkplug Brandon Prust packing their bags for Broadway.

The four-player deal was reportedly consummated a night earlier, but it wasn’t announced until after Jokinen and Prust donned the Flaming C for the last time in Monday’s loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.

As the hockey world waited for confirmation, Kotalik was portrayed as the bad guy.

There were reports the swap was in limbo as the 31-year-old pondered whether to waive his partial no-trade clause. He’s been fingered as a disruptive force in the Rangers’ dressing room. In fact, the Blueshirts sent him home to await a deal.

Addressing a throng of reporters as Kotalik traversed the continent Tuesday, the Flames head coach dismissed questions about what went wrong in the Big Apple.

“I couldn’t care less about what’s happened to him in New York this year or what’s gone on, because I don’t know,” Sutter said. “I know from two years ago in Buffalo he was a very good hockey player.

“We want him to be a good player for us. He’s gonna get put in situations to be a good player for us, because he is a talented player and a big man that’s got some decent, good skills.”

The Flames are hopeful Kotalik can inject some life into a sputtering offence.

The Czech winger scored only eight times in 45 outings as a Ranger, but has potted at least 20 in four of his six full NHL campaigns. During a brief stint with the Edmonton Oilers last season, he lit the lamp seven times in 19 games.

Higgins seemed optimistic Kotalik could rediscover his offensive touch with the Flames.

“The thing you notice about him right away is just how heavy his shot is and how quickly he gets it away, so hopefully he can find some ice and be able to get it off,” Higgins said. “And he’s a good guy off the ice — I get along with him real well — and I think he’ll fit in with the team.”


Videos

Photos