Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

February 23, 2008

TIM SCHMITT: More highs, lows from Kotalik

BUFFALO — Consider this his last chance. No joke. If Ales Kotalik is ever to become the player the Sabres have long envisioned, it's a good bet it'll start on a line with the dynamic offensive tandem of Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek.

Kotalik hasn't found his new home on merit. Chances are, without injuries to Max Afinogenov, Drew Stafford, and Jochen Hecht, the six-year veteran would still be seeing limited action. Sure, he'd still see time on the power play, but his regular shifts would be cut to a minimum.

On Saturday night, those flashes that the Sabres higher-ups have been holding out hope for came to fruition, as Kotalik's two goals kept the locals in a game that was as close to a late February playoff game as you can get. As Lindy Ruff said after, "(Kotalik) was having a great night."

But his horrible giveaway with just over five minutes remaining proved the most costly of the night as the Sabres dropped a 4-3 decision.

It was a perfect snapshot of Kotalik's Buffalo career; the highs come with an alarming number of lows.

Kotalik started the night with big plays, getting the Sabres ahead with goals in each of the first two periods.

Both were perfect examples of the skill set that make him so desirable. On the first, he snapped a riser from the point that Henrik Lundqvist couldn't find. It wasn't the typical Kotalik cannon, but rather a smart release that wasted little motion and took advantage of Vanek's screen.

And the second was vintage Kotalik; he waltzed in alone and roofed one that Lundqvist had no chance to stop.

But during a second-period power play, Kotalik hand-delivered the puck to Ranger defenders not once, but twice, surrendering control in the offensive zone.

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