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Returning Wednesday

by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres

March 24, 2007
by Brian Wheeler

Ales Kotalik doesn't see any problems with playing this Wednesday, if his knee feels as good as it did on Monday.

Kotalik, along with Daniel Paille, participated in a full practice on Monday for the first time since suffering a knee injury on Feb. 17. Following the workout, Kotalik was hopeful that his return was imminent.

"It was a hard practice, and if things go as they have so far, I'm not seeing any problems with me playing Wednesday," said Kotalik. "We just did a lot of work to know how the knee would react in a full practice. We've been doing a lot of battling things in practice today and I felt pretty good.

"I felt strong and that's what I need to do to be able to come back on the ice."

"For the first day and a pretty tough practice, [Kotalik] got through it pretty good," said head coach Lindy Ruff. "Him and Danny [Paille] have progressed to a pretty good level now.

"We're hopeful that [Kotalik] will be ready [Wednesday]."

Kotalik will don a knee brace for an added level of support. Although foreign for the 28 year old, it's something that he will have to adjust to.

"It's definitely different," said Kotalik. "You just have a feeling that you're one leg is heavier than the other one and the movement is a little different.

"I've been skating with it for three weeks. It's unfortunate, but it's what you've got to do to have that knee a little protected."

"You have to gain a comfort level in wearing one," said Ruff. "We've had several players that have worn one almost full time and it does take awhile. I don't think it's restricting at all, but it's something that you have to get used to.

Kotalik joined Chris Drury and Dainius Zubrus in his first day back. Ruff is hoping that, once healthy, Kotalik will be able to gel with the duo of pivots. In 59 games this season, Kotalik scored 14 goals and added 22 assists for 36 points.

Added Ruff: "Dainius is a pretty good passer and Al has a pretty good shot, so you're hoping for some chemistry."
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