- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Here’s to second chances. Ales Kotalik never envisioned he’d get one back in Buffalo with the Sabres.

“I would lie if I would say I wasn’t surprised,” Kotalik said this week as the Sabres opened training camp. “It’s exciting, coming back here and seeing all of the guys and all of the people in this organization where I grew up and where I became an NHL player. I’m really happy and excited to be back.”

After two-plus seasons of bouncing around the NHL _ from Edmonton, to Calgary, to the Rangers and back to Calgary again _ and a stint in the minors, the 32-year-old forward has rejoined the Sabres after being acquired as part of a trade that landed Buffalo hard-hitting defenseman Robyn Regehr in June.

“It kind of is like coming home,” Kotalik said.

Now it’s on him to make the most of his opportunity in a familiar setting.

“You’ve got to believe in yourself,” he said. “And I’m taking it like an opportunity to show I can still be a good player in this league.”

Sabres coach Lindy Ruff is open to providing his former player a shot.

“We know what he brings, we know how we utilized him,” Ruff said. “It’s (a matter of) getting him on the ice and seeing where his game is at. (Whether) it’s at the same level as before he left us, or if there has been a drop-off, it’s all part of that evaluation process.”

Kotalik did not dress for Buffalo’s preseason opener against Carolina on Monday. The Sabres are at Montreal on Wednesday.

Kotalik became dispensable in Buffalo after an up-and-down six-plus season stint that ended with him being traded to Edmonton in exchange for a second-round pick in March 2009.

Buffalo’s sixth-round pick in the 1998 draft, Kotalik had 104 goals and 240 points in 426 games with the Sabres, but lacked consistency. He failed to live up to the promise he showed in 2005-06, when he had a career-best 25 goals and 62 points.

And his dropoff continued following his departure, leading to Kotalik reaching a crossroads of his career last season in Calgary.

After missing the start of the season with a knee injury, he then split time between the Flames and their minor-league affiliate in Abbotsford, British Columbia.

He scored just six points in 26 games with the Flames and added six goals and 18 points in 25 games in the minors. It appeared as if the Flames would simply cut him loose and let him sign somewhere else.

“The team wasn’t going really well, and I wasn’t really able to help in any way. When the new GM took over, he announced some changes,” Kotalik said, referring to Jay Feaster. “He wanted to cut some salaries, I knew he might be talking about me.”

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