|Pat Kaleta (Photo: Getty Images) |
Lindy Ruff said he wanted Patrick Kaleta
to pick his spots this season when looking for a big hit.
The agitator found it 32 seconds into the second period on Thursday night.
With Phoenix Coyotes’ forward Petr Prucha playing the puck along the wall, Kaleta saw an opportunity and lambasted the winger with a check that sent him sprawling across the ice.
Martin Hanzal retaliated and jumped Kaleta – earning 19 minutes in penalties and giving the Sabres a four-minute power play.
“He made a great clean hit on somebody that wasn’t paying attention,” goaltender Ryan Miller
said. “It just kind of threw them off that all night they felt they had to get in Patty’s face.”
While the Coyotes may disagree, Kaleta believes the hit was clean.
“Dirty ones I stay away from,” he said. “I don’t like those, I don’t think it’s a good hit. If a guy has his head down and I can stick him with a good hit I’m going to. It’s part of the game and that’s what happened. If they want to come after me I’ll just let our power play go out.”
And he did. In all, the Angola native drew 10 minutes worth of power play time for the Sabres as they beat Phoenix 2-1 at HSBC Arena.
James Vandermeer earned two minutes for roughing in the second period when he tried to mix it up with Kaleta. Scottie Upshall later received four minutes for high-sticking and roughing.
“Pat did a nice job,” Ruff said. “He drew a lot of penalties. He did it well within the perimeters of the law… You’ve got to give him a lot of credit for putting us in the position to win the game.
“We were looking for energy, he supplied some energy and we got some opportunities because of the way he played.”
The role isn’t a foreign concept for the winger. He began the 2008-09 season in a similar fashion.
Kaleta was indirectly responsible for back-to-back wins for the Sabres on Oct. 15 against the Rangers and Oct. 17 against the Canucks. By luring Paul Mara and Shane O’Brien, respectively, into penalties, the subsequent power plays resulted in game-winning goals for Buffalo.
That trend, and reputation, has become a known trait of Kaleta's throughout the League.
“It’s part of my job,” he said. “I’m happy to contribute to our team and let our skill guys go out there and do their job.”
Kaleta also seemed to satisfy Ruff’s request to become a more complete player.
The Sabres Head Coach asked the winger to abandon the ‘ping pong’ style he’s used in the past and only hit opponents when it doesn’t take him out of the play.
Ruff also wanted him to work on special teams, where he found a good fit, leading the Sabres with 2:55 minutes on the penalty kill in Thursday’s win.
“We shut them down and that’s something we’ve been trying to improve from last year,” Kaleta said. “You’ve heard it – holding each other accountable and shutting them down at the end; not letting other teams back in and keeping the points that we need.”