Patrick Kaleta may not be able to play, but he’s trying to make the most of his situation.
Kaleta, considered a repeat offender under the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, is in the middle of serving a 10-game suspension handed down by the NHL for an illegal check to the head of Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson on Oct. 10. Kaleta has appealed the suspension, but is still unable to play.
He’s missed four games already and is eligible to return for the Buffalo Sabres’ home game against the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 2. Right now, he’s just going through the process.
“There’s not much info I can give right now, but it gives me time to try to better my game, try to better myself and along the way, maybe help out some of the younger guys with some of the things I’m watching and seeing and seeing if I can help out in that aspect as well,” he said after practice at First Niagara Center on Friday.
Critics have said that Kaleta must change the way he plays in order avoid future fines and suspensions. He’s been fined and/or suspended four times in the past six seasons. Most recently, he was suspended five games for a hit he put on New York Rangers forward Brad Richards in March.
Kaleta says he’s already been working on adjusting his style and continues to do so.
“I’ve been changing my game over the past little while. Everyone who’s watched the Sabres and has paid close attention has seen it,” he said. “Like I said, I just need to keep continuing to get better and do what’s best for the team and try to be a positive influence on what’s going on here.”
Minnesota Wild forward Matt Cooke, who has a lengthy suspension history, reached out to Kaleta to offer advice on how to approach the game in a different way.
At first, Kaleta was surprised to hear from Cooke.
“It was kind of cool because as you guys know, I don’t really expect to have a lot of friends on other teams and stuff like that,” Kaleta said. “But it’s interesting because I don’t know his background or anything, but I’m assuming he’s worked pretty hard to get to where he is.
“We’re sort of in the same boat there so he kind of understands where I’m coming from and what I have to do to stay in the League and what I have to do to help out the team. It was cool in that aspect and I respect everything he said and hopefully I can use what he said and help myself and my game out.”
He would also look to talk to Cooke again if he needed to.
“When you’re on the ice together, you’re competitors and you’re going to battle, but if he can help me out in the same aspect and make me a better player for Buffalo then I’d be stupid not to use it,” he said.
Kaleta practiced again this week in a full-face shield. He injured his face in the game against Columbus.
“It’s good. I had a little surgery going on there, but if I could play, I’d be playing with it anyway,” he said. “I’m not too worried about the way my face looks or any of that stuff, so I’m good to go.”