Heat happy with Kotalik

Three games into Ales Kotalik’s tenure with the Abbotsford Heat, the AHL club is pleased with the early returns.

“He’s brought us everything we hoped he would,” Heat assistant coach Troy Ward said. “He’s brought us offence, he’s brought us experience.

“I like how he’s handled himself and how he’s carried himself.”

Kotalik, a veteran of eight NHL seasons who is in the second year of a three-year, $9 million contract, was reassigned to Abbotsford by the NHL parent Calgary Flames on Jan. 28.

The 32-year-old forward joined the Heat last week for a three-games-in-three-days gauntlet on the road, beginning with a 4-3 shootout win over the Chicago Wolves on Friday and continuing with a pair of 3-2 losses to the Rockford IceHogs and the Lake Erie Monsters.

Kotalik made himself conspicuous offensively, posting three assists. He’s still looking for his first goal, but it’s not for lack of effort – he registered 17 shots over the three games, including 10 on Saturday against Rockford.

Kotalik’s linemates for the bulk of the weekend were Gaelan Patterson and Cam Cunning, but he spent the third period on Sunday skating with Ryan Stone and Greg Nemisz. He’s also played the point on the power play.

The Czech forward hasn’t played a lot of hockey this season, getting into just 20 games with the Flames – a combination of a knee injury at the start of the year and frequent healthy scratches prior to his reassignment.

“He’s just kind of getting himself together right now,” Ward said. “But he’s competed really hard.”

The Heat are in the midst of a stretch of seven games in nine nights. They conclude their 10-game road trip with stops in Hamilton on Tuesday and Rochester on Wednesday, before returning home for a Friday-Saturday set with the Toronto Marlies.

Ward said the coaching staff has been instructing the youthful Heat squad on how to maximize rest effectively during the compressed portion of the schedule.

“The one thing we want them to understand is that regardless of how many games in how many days, it doesn’t change how we want to play or approach the game,” Ward said.