SUN Hockey Pool

Kotalik happy to be a Flame

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:30 AM ET

Ales Kotalik’s reputation was gone in a New York Minute, and now he wants it back.

The winger arrived in Calgary Wednesday motivated for his first outing with the Flames after a trade brought him from the Rangers this week with Christopher Higgins for Olli Jokinen and Brandon Prust.

In 45 games with the Rangers this season, the 31-year-old Czech had just eight goals and he spent the past three weeks in the doghouse — a healthy scratch in eight of nine games.

Coming to Calgary is a fresh start, and one the four-time 20-goal scorer isn’t taking lightly.

“I want to prove mostly to myself I could have been better and I will be better,” said the 6-foot-1, 228-lb. forward, who denied reports he didn’t want to come to Calgary originally and had to think on waiving his partial no-movement clause.

“It wasn’t like that. I wasn’t holding up the deal. There were some things in my contract but I had to talk it over with some people and the decision was made quickly. It was the Flames decision to announce it after the game.”

For six seasons starting in Buffalo, Kotalik was a consistent player, averaging a 20-goal per season pace and playing a solid two-way game.

At last season’s trade deadline, as he was approaching unrestricted free agency, the Sabres shipped him off to the Edmonton Oilers for a second-round draft choice.

In just 19 games with the Oil, Kotalik managed to pot seven goals and set himself up for three-year, $9-million free-agent deal from the Rangers.

Despite the expectation he would help ignite fellow European star Marian Gaborik, that didn’t happen and Kotalik took a lesser role.

It was to the point where Kotalik wasn’t even dressing, and that came as a shock to the veteran.

“I really didn’t expect what happened in New York,” said Kotalik. “My position wasn’t meant to be effective.

“The decision was made and I had to be professional about it. Coming to a new team, I’m excited. This is a fresh start.

“This was one of the toughest parts of my career.

“Sometimes things aren’t what you need to be effective and be a good player.

“Sometimes things don’t work out. You need to look forward and leave the past behind you.”

Inserted on a line with Daymond Langkow and fellow newcomer Christopher Higgins, Kotalik is expected to provide an offensive punch to a club dearly lacking that.

Whether that line stays together or not, Kotalik already feels like there is a defined role for him.

“Goals come with confidence and confidence comes with a good role on a team,” Kotalik said. “Right now, it’s about getting in and winning games and it doesn’t matter how you get there. I want to chip in any way I can.

“Hopefully, I can be a big part of this team.”

Being paired right off the bat provides a bit of comfort to Higgins, as both enter a dressing room where they know only a handful of people.

“I didn’t really play with Kots much in New York but we spent six months together, so we have an understanding for each other’s game,” Higgins said. “Both of us want to start off on the right foot so hopefully we can make it work.

“Coming to a new team, you want to gain respect of your new teammates and coaching staff.”

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca


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