Kotalik rediscovering his scoring side in Edmonton

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:09 AM ET

The hands were frozen in ice long before Ales Kotalik ever came to Edmonton.

He had all but forgotten how to score in Buffalo, finding net just five times in his last 33 games with the Sabres.

The twine seemed just as safe in Edmonton, where Kotalik, acquired at the trade deadline to spark the Oilers' struggling offence, didn't get a sniff in his first six games here.

No goals. No assists. No nothing.

If the stress of not scoring was eating away at him in Buffalo, it was practically feasting on him in Edmonton, where he wanted to make a good impression on a new team fighting for its playoff life.

He didn't.

Edmonton spun its wheels after he came here in exchange for Erik Cole, who was just hitting his stride when the deal went down, and Kotalik wasn't helping much.

"He was starting to get pretty down," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "You could tell from his comments and his demeanour. He wanted to come in and be a factor on a new team."

He finally was, scoring the shootout winner against St. Louis and it was like the weight of the world was lifted off his hockey gloves.

"It's a good feeling," said Kotalik. "I like those situations when the game is on the line. I've been there before and I like it. I have confidence in those situations, being able to put it away for a team. It feels good to be able to contribute that way."

The next night, he had a goal and three assists to beat Colorado.

The game after that, another goal in a shootout win. He scored in three straight games, giving him seven points in the last six games, plus two goals in the shootout.

"I'm glad I was able to get on board production-wise but that's not what this is all about," he said. "It's about whoever is stepping up and winning games."

Still, it's nice to score, nice to know those hands of his didn't abandon him forever.

"After the tough start for me with this organization, with change, new people, new environment, I've settled in and I feel great now," said Kotalik, an unrestricted free agent at season's end. "It's tough being traded and coming to a new team like this, especially for us (he and Patrick O'Sullivan). We'd never been traded before. I spent all my career in Buffalo, almost my whole 20s. It's been my second home since I came over. It came as a shock to me.

"But the players and coaches and all the people around the team, they've been great with me. That's all you can ask for. I've been here two weeks but it feels like I've been here way longer than that. I hope the guys feel the same way."

The adjustment on the ice was just as trying. They'd practically given up on him as a scorer in Buffalo, so Kotalik had to rediscover his touch here.

"I came over here and everybody is expecting I'm going to score the goals and put up the points. Nobody realized that they didn't use me as a scorer in Buffalo. I'm kind of reborn here. They had me on the third line, I was playing with guys who've never scored more than 10 goals in a season. It's tough to hold up to your name as a scorer. Then I came here and I'm just trying to play honest hockey."

MacTavish says another hand makes all the difference.

"It helped last time when we added a couple of guys, (Sergei) Samsonov was a big help in '06," he said. "It just helps the overall production."

ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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