Kotalik still searching for his game

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:43 AM ET

Goal scorers don't need to be told when they're not scoring.

By the time reporters start creeping around a slumping sniper's stall, usually about five or six games into a drought, he's already three games into wondering what's wrong with his hands.

So Ales Kotalik didn't need to be told why a couple of writers had him cornered at Millennium Place yesterday.

Four games as an Edmonton Oiler - zero goals.

Not exactly the flying start he and the Oilers were hoping for when he arrived at the trade deadline.

"It's tough, but nobody expects more from me than myself," said Kotalik, who spent nearly six full seasons in Buffalo before heading west as part of a multi-team deal that saw Erik Cole return to Carolina.

"I'm the hardest on myself. I'm trying to do whatever I can to get that production going, but sometimes the pucks just aren't going in."

He knows how to score. He had 23 last year, 64 over the previous three seasons, and 16 this year, but he's been snake-bitten lately - zero goals in six games dating back to Buffalo; one goal in his last 11; five in his last 33 dating back to Dec. 26.

No matter how you crunch the numbers, they don't add up.

Kotalik and his booming shot were going to be a perfect complement for Ales Hemsky's setups, but the countrymen haven't meshed yet.

"The more you think about it the more your hands and legs feel heavy," said Kotalik, who's trying to shut out the external pressures and just focus on what he knows best.

"You try and stay positive. If it gets to your head you feel frustrated."

He's acutely aware of the numbers, which are magnified now that he's on a new team in the middle of a playoff chase.

In a couple of overtime losses this week, who knows what a difference a timely goal or two might have made.

"When you come to a new team and you're playing with two really skilled guys (there's pressure).

"The chances have been there. I hope I'm going to turn the corner production-wise and I'm going to be helpful to this team."

Sometimes all it takes is that first goal, but he's still waiting. He, Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff got schooled in their first game together, going minus-three on Ottawa's first four goals, but have looked better in the three games since. Kotalik had some really good looks against Atlanta, but, again, the trigger wasn't there.

"That's kind of characteristic for me in the last couple of weeks," he said.

"Good opportunities that I used to be be able to put away before. It seems a lot tougher now. But now is no time to be negative about anything."

Joining a new team in the middle of a road trip hasn't given Kotalik much time to settle into his surroundings, on or off the ice. It took Cole half a season to really find his bearings after six years in Carolina and he had all summer to prepare.

Kotalik understands the Oilers don't have the luxury of time, and he'll have to find some chemistry with Hemsky and Horcoff in a hurry.

"He covers a lot of ice, you have to get used to those places that he goes," Kotalik said of Hemsky.

"He's not an easy player to read sometimes, but I've been in this league for a while and hopefully I can get better at that, get some offence going.

"We had some pretty good opportunities last game, but we didn't have luck with the pucks going in.

"I don't know how many games (they'll be together), but I will try to do everything to help not just that line but the whole team."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos