Buffalo Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier announced today the team has returned the following 10 players to their respective junior clubs: forwards Steven Beyers (Barrie, OHL), Dan Catenacci (Owen Sound, OHL), Cedrick Henley
(Val D’Or, QMJHL), Steven Shipley
(Niagara, OHL), Kevin Sundher
(Victoria, WHL) and Gregg Sutch
(Barrie, OHL); defensemen Jerome Gauthier-Leduc
(Rimouski, QMJHL), Alex Lepkowski
(Barrie, OHL) and Mark Pysyk
(Edmonton, WHL); and goaltender Nathan Lieuwen
In addition, goaltender Ryan Rondeau has been returned to Laredo of the Central Hockey League
This leaves the Sabres with 52 players still in training camp (30 forwards, 17 defensemen and five goaltenders).
Ales Kotalik is back with the Buffalo Sabres, feeling like the same player he was before he left, but like a person with a different outlook on life.
The Sabres’ sixth-round pick in 1998, Kotalik finds himself back in Buffalo’s training camp after he was acquired in the trade that brought defenseman Robyn Regehr
from Calgary in June. Kotalik was surprised to hear about the trade because he expected Calgary to buy him out of the last year of his contract.
“I became part of the trade and it felt great right from the start,” Kotalik said. “I knew I’m coming back to the place where I grew up and I’ll be around the same people who made me the player I am. They kind of made my dream happen to become an NHL player and have a great NHL career. So it was probably the best thing that could happen to me.”
With a few days in camp under his belt, head coach Lindy Ruff said that Kotalik has put in hard work and seems to be fitting in nicely.
“I think that Al looks like the old Al before he left,” Ruff said.CLICK HERE TO LISTEN TO RUFF'S POST-PRACTICE COMMENTS
While finding joy in a new yet familiar situation on the ice, Kotalik’s offseason was also marred by tragedy on a personal level. Three of his close friends and players on Lokomitiv Yaroslavl of the KHL, were among the 44 people that died in the plane crash in Russia on Sept. 7.
“It opens your eyes,” Kotalik said. “They day that it happened, time stopped for everyone back home in Czech and I wasn’t able to do anything for a couple days. I was just staring with the tears in my eyes and just waiting for someone to call me and tell me it wasn’t the truth and just that the tragedy didn’t happen – that it was a bad dream.”
He said the tragedy has allowed helped him realize what tragedy really means and how important it is to spend time around the people he cares about, all while taking it one day at a time. He also said it has modified his outlook on the game of hockey.
“I had a problem the last couple years to have fun playing and that’s the worst thing that can happen to a professional athlete,” Kotalik said. “I was searching for fun and for the joy of the game and what makes it fun. Along with the tragedy, you take a little different approach and you try to be more positive.”
Kotalik played in parts of seven seasons with the Sabres before being traded to the Edmonton Oilers in 2009. He signed as an unrestricted free agent with the New York Rangers that off-season and was traded again to the Calgary Flames in February 2010. He suffered a knee injury while with the Flames last season and played 25 games for the Flames AHL affiliate in Abbotsford.
“You know, everything’s connected. Success in this league comes with hard work and then it’s a matter of confidence, role and position in a team and when you have it, you are able to produce and be the player everyone expects you to be,” Kotalik said. “If you don’t have that, it’s always almost impossible to deliver what’s being expected of you and most of all what you expect from yourself. That’s been the issue since I left Buffalo and honestly, I’ve never been the same since I left.”
Kotalik finds himself in a tight battle for one or two roster spots on the Sabres, and is focused only on playing this coming season in the National Hockey League. He says he is determined to not only make the team, but to also be “a force” that can help the team win games.
“I came determined to get the spot on this team and really that’s my only option,” Kotalik said. “I am not looking any farther. No other options than making this team. They are not out there for me.”
’s season started last night with some new linemates. The 25-year-old winger skated with new center Ville Leino
and winger Tyler Ennis
in the team’s preseason opener against the Carolina Hurricanes. The line registered six of Buffalo’s 27 shots on goal.
“It’s a lot of fun getting used to each other, working on some plays and we found out we can play keep away from the other team,” Stafford said. “But now we know we need to get more pucks to the net.”
As camp progresses, Stafford said he hopes to continue to feed off his teammates and build chemistry. With Leino and Ennis possessing great playmaking abilities, Stafford said it’s his job to get open and create space for them.
Stafford also served as an alternate captain along with defenseman Tyler Myers
against Carolina. Center Paul Gaustad wore the “C” for the Sabres. Stafford filled in as an alternate captain last season when the team battled injuries.
“I’m not necessarily a rah-rah kind of guy in the locker room, but I try and do my best to lead by example as far as my play on the ice and my work ethic off the ice with training,” Stafford said. “Like I said, I’m not the most vocal guy. I’ll say something if I feel as if it needs to be said but I’m more the kind of guy that tries to do my best to make sure that I can get better and in the process make my teammates better.”
After finishing the 2010-11 season with a career-high 31 goals and 52 points in 62 games, Stafford said he’s going to take this training camp to improve on all aspects of his game.
“I got my foot in the door last year. I think I took a step at least in the right direction in what player I can be,” Stafford said. “From here on out, it’s continuing to get better in every area – offense, defense, shooting the puck, in my own end, pretty much every single area.”