SUN Hockey Pool

Kotalik burns old team

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

Some eyebrows were raised in wonder when the New York Rangers offered Ales Kotalik a three-year contract worth $3-million per season. But judging by his performance so far, the former Oilers winger looks to be a bargain.

Playing his first game back in Edmonton since signing with the Rangers as a free agent this summer, Kotalik scored a goal and added a pair of assists in a 4-2 win over the Oilers last night. The three points gave the Czech Republic native 15 through 17 games this season.

"He's played well," said Rangers head coach John Tortorella. "Obviously he's a big guy on the power play with his shot. I thought after a slow start this year, he's begun to understand the game away from the puck and how hard he has to play."

After the Oilers acquired him from the Buffalo Sabres at the trading deadline last season, he had seven goals and four assists in 19 games.

"He shoots the puck as hard as anybody I've seen in my life," said Rangers assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld. "He can really rifle it, and he's elevated his physical play in the last little while. We feel because he's so tremendously strong, if he really grinds it out game in and game out, he could be somewhere between a 35- and 40-goal scorer."

Last night, Kotalik scored the eventual game-winner, one-timing a cross-ice pass from Marian Gaborik past Nikolai Khabibulin. He also picked up assists on goals by Ryan Callahan and Gaborik.

"The way I'm looking at it was being able to get the two points that we needed as team," said Kotalik. "I'm happy I was able to chip in on the power play. It's something special to be able to come back here to Edmonton.

"It was a little weird at the start, but I wish these guys nothing but the best."

DEREK.VANDIEST@SUNMEDIA.CA


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