To go forward, Patrick Kaleta has been moving backward.
The Buffalo Sabres right wing has been relied on to kill penalties for the club and he spent the offseason in Buffalo focusing on an aspect of his skating that he believes will help him on special teams.
“I worked heavily on my backwards skating, which a little weird if you’re wondering, because I play forward,” Kaleta said after practice at First Niagara Center on Saturday. “But I want to become the best penalty killer possible. I want to take that step to the next level with that aspect of my game.”
Sabres coach Ron Rolston has said that he’s looking for players on the fourth line that can play a physical game, create energy and play a defensive role, particularly on the penalty kill.
That pretty much describes Kaleta’s game, but he’s also been working to improve on the offensive side. He had one goal in 34 games last season. He scored 10, a career-high, back in 2009-10.
“That is what I do and I am expecting to improve my offensive ability this year. I’ve been working on that, too, watching video and all that sort of stuff,” he said. “I’m putting a little bit of pressure on myself to contribute and help in our goal scoring column and in the points column a little bit more too.”
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The high intensity level of this training camp has been noticeable. Defenseman Tyler Myers mentioned on Friday that the up-tempo pace in practices and scrimmages was welcome as the team prepares for its first preseason game in Montreal on Sunday and ultimately for the regular season opener on Oct. 2 in Detroit. Kaleta agreed with that assessment.
“I like that. Get a little body going on in the scrimmage, which prepares me even more for the regular season. But that’s what you want,” Kaleta said. “You want the older guys to lead the way and you want the younger guys to push the older guys.”
And as younger guys make that push, Kaleta, who’s entering his eighth NHL season, is also looking to play a leadership role and help out the less experienced players in camp.
“I’m an older guy now, which is kind of hard to believe, but it’s my job to show the young guys the way,” he said. “…I remember my first camp, I came in here hitting everything and I came in with the mentality of making the team even though it wasn’t a reality at that point.
“That’s what I try to instill into some of these guys’ heads that you’re coming here to make a team. You’re not coming here just to see the big guys go to work and that’s it. You want to come here and push us and get that roster spot.”