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by Kevin Snow / Buffalo Sabres

RALEIGH, NC – Patrick Kaleta took part in Tuesday’s morning skate at PNC Arena, but it will be a while before he’s doing it to prepare for a game.

One day after being suspended five games for a boarding call against New York’s Brad Richards on Sunday, Kaleta talked to reporters, and reacted to some of the comments that have been made about him by prominent members of the national media.

“A lot of people are calling me scumbag, a dirty hockey player,” Kaleta said after getting some extra work with Sabres’ coaches following the morning skate. “But I play hard, I play on the edge. It doesn’t define me as a person. It defines one play that could be controversial either way. That’s the way it is. That’s the way being in the so-called spotlight works, and you deal with it.

“They can call me whatever the heck they want to call me. People know me as a person. People in Buffalo see me as a hockey player and how I’ve grown, and what I’m like on and off the ice. You guys know what kind of person I am, they don’t. They see one play and judge a player, and how you are as a person on that play, which to me is unfair. But people have many opinions, and I know a lot of them are negative towards me. But I play for my teammates, my city, my family and my coaches.”

Kaleta’s knows that his repeat offender status – based on a four-game suspension for head-butting Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek in November 2011 – played a role in this ruling, and he’d rather not have any more conversations with NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan.

The 26-year-old winger has become a valuable penalty killer and fearless shot blocker over the past few years, traits that have often led to injuries. He’s currently fourth on the team with 48 hits in 18 games, and second among Sabres’ forwards with 17 blocked shots. But while it’s this relentless approach to the game that endears Kaleta to his teammates, it often rubs his detractors the wrong way.

“I’m gonna keep working on my game. It’s improved tremendously, even though some may say ‘you have no points, blah, blah, blah.’ I’ve improved as a hockey player, I’ve gotten smarter, and I’ve got a better mindset on and off the ice. I know what I can do to help this team. Hopefully these next five games come with wins, they go by fast, and then I’m back out there blocking shots and feeling a little bit beat up.”

Kaleta is eligible to return from his suspension on Sunday, March 17 in Washington.


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