Kotalik back at Dome? No sweat — literally

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:37 PM ET

On the first shift of the game, No. 26 swiped the puck from an Oklahoma City Barons blueliner, snapped a shot on goal, delivered a bodycheck, stole the puck again and fired it into enemy territory before retreating for a line change, all in a span of about 30 seconds.

That's how long it took for most of the Saddledome faithful to figure out recent Calgary Flames castoff Ales Kotalik isn't wearing his old number with his new squad.

Kotalik, with No. 19 stitched on his back, seemed thoroughly disinterested in his first spin around the Saddledome since being exiled to the American Hockey League three weeks ago.

Although the US$3-million man provided an occasional reminder he was the most skilled skater on the ice for the Abbotsford Heat in Friday's 2-1 loss to the top affiliate of the Edmonton Oilers, he shouldn't be waiting by the phone for a recall.

AHL journeyman Jon Rheault, who has sported No. 26 for the Heat since joining the club last season, is all heart and hustle but likely doesn't have the skill-set to be beckoned by the big club for any length of time. And if Friday's lacklustre effort was any indication, Kotalik doesn't care if he ever breaks a sweat at the Saddledome again.

That's not to say that the Heat roster doesn't feature a few candidates for promotion.

Stone, who opened the scoring in Friday's affair by ripping a wrist shot past well-travelled netminder Martin Gerber, seems determined to earn another crack at a full-time NHL job.

Winger Cam Cunning flashed some big-league speed and a bit of grit to go with it.

Former Calgary Hitmen rearguard Keith Seabrook made solid defensive decisions, while Leland Irving provided a few key saves. Alexandre Giroux's game-winner with 1:06 remaining wasn't Irving's fault.

On a night that many of the Flames prospects seemed nervous about skating on the big stage, the loudest cheer was still reserved for Craig Conroy, the just-retired fan favourite who watched the action from above in his new role as a special assistant to acting GM Jay Feaster.

As for boos, and only a couple of spectators even bothered, the only recipient was Kotalik.

He didn't do anything to prove them wrong.


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