GREENBURGH, N.Y. - The most pressing need in this compressed, hectic pre-Olympics NHL schedule is making sure the players aren't overworked. "You just can't practice too much," Rangers coach John Tortorella said Tuesday, echoing a fact of life for all players on all teams.
An exception is Ales Kotalik.
Kotalik has had much more rest than he has wanted lately, having been scratched for the past six games, including three straight Rangers losses. On game days, he has been limited to the morning skate.
"We work. Sometimes the days you don't play are even harder than the days you do play a game," he said after the team's 50-minute workout, during a stretch of six games in 11 days.
"It wasn't really a pleasant and enjoyable time for me. You try and keep it to yourself, don't bother anybody else with it. Try to be supportive of the guys. And keep yourself ready for when you step in again. That's what I was trying to do," Kotalik said.
His exile appears over. The forward who has struggled to score goals (as has everyone else on the Rangers lately, even top scorer Marian Gaborik) worked out at the point on the power play Tuesday and likely will play against the Hurricanes Wednesday night at the Garden.
Tortorella would not confirm that. But the fact is, much of the practice was devoted to the power play and Kotalik was with the first unit, along with Gaborik, Vinny Prospal, Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto. Tortorella was pleased with the crispness and creativity of the special-team unit, for which the most pressing issue has been, well, pressing.
The Rangers had six minutes of power-play time at the start of the third period against the Penguins Monday night and failed to score, a drought that looked worse because the Penguins scored 16 seconds into their third-period power play on the way to a 4-2 win.
"We're just way too deliberate. It's a manifestation of the pressure they have because they know they need to score a goal," Tortorella said. "It's stagnant, and we tried to get them out of it a little bit today."
Kotalik, whose agent has denied a rumor that he had requested a trade, was among those who got the message: "Move the puck quickly, attack the net and don't pass up any opportunities to shoot the puck. I'll try to do my best to help these guys get back on the right track, with the power play."
With any luck, he could be as tired as most other NHL players by the Olympic break. Defenseman Marc Staal, who had 23:12 of ice time Monday, said, "Some games you feel good, some games not so much. But I think you prepare the same way and try to get as much rest as you can, when you can."