The New York Rangers are finding out first-hand what everyone around the Sabres has long known about Ales Kotalik: Great guy, rocket on the power play, super on shootouts but leaving you wanting more in five-on-five play. Kotalik hits town for tonight's game, his first in HSBC Arena since he was traded to Edmonton in March, with six goals and 12 assists. But he has a team-worst minus-12 rating and a nine-game goalless streak.
(Cheap plug alert: Read plenty of Kotalik's thoughts in Sunday's Sabres notebook)
Kotalik signed a three-year, $9-million deal with the Rangers over the summer but his recent struggles led Tortorella to bench him from the power play in the Rangers' last game. He'll be back on it tonight. Tortorella said Friday, "Now is the time for him to jam it to me. I know he's not happy but don't make faces and don't tell me. Show me. Show us."
When I asked Tortorella about those comments Saturday morning, he didn't back down a bit.
"It's easy to bench a player as a coach but I think you need to go through the other processes of trying to get through to a player," Tortorella said. "We've done that. We've tried a lot of different ways to get him going. He's been good on our power play. I just haven't seen consistency in five-on-five. That's why he didn't play.
"We want to get him into a situation where he's one of our top nine and produces for us. We need that. We're not scoring goals but it's got to be a two-way street away from the puck and all that. We've gone through a number of different ways to get him going. Hopefully, he'll answer. That's what we're looking for. We want him to be part of us offensively and defensively in a more consistent manner."
Kotalik has been the face of plenty of the Rangers' problems. He had three goals in the first five games and the Rangers were once 7-1. He has just three goals since as the Rangers have gone just 6-12-1 and scored two goals or less in 11 of the last 15 games.
Kotalik insists he has no problems with his new coach's in-your-face style.
"I feel myself I can be better and I will be better," he said. "There's no better way than to work through it and stay positive. I have no problems with him. It's not about the coach or whoever else. It's up on us and me to get back to where we were at the start of the season."
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