St. Louis--- RW Ales Kotalik, who signed a three-year, $9 million contract this summer, won't play tonight and is not pleased with his benching.

              "The explanation is not worth using. I don't know what it is. There's probably something behind it," said Kotalik, a nine-year vet who also was a healthy scratch on Dec. 17 and 19th, but had played 12 straight since. Coach John Tortorella had been displeased with his 5-on-5 play, (he is minus-16), then trimmed some minutes in the past two games, but  had continued to give him time on the point on the 1st power play unit.

              "When Vinny Prospal was hurt, I scored a couple goals (in back-to-back games) and we talked about some things with the coaching staff and I started to feel better about myself and that my game was coming along," he said today. "When Vinny comes back I'm pushed to the fourth line. It's probably the most frustrating part of my career. I didn't expect this when I came here...to be the worst guy here--by that I mean, not good enough to be in the lineup." 

             Kotalik (8-14-22) bristles about being pegged as solely a specialty player (he likened his situation as being on the punt-return team in the NFL) and wonders whether he should have been given more time with former Sabres teammate Chris Drury, an option that was discussed when he was acquired. 

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            He was a key part of the team's hot October start with the man-advantage (12-44 and a PP goal or more in eight consecutive games). But he did go 21 games without a goal. In the past two games, he played 7:50 and 9:13.