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by Erin Pollina / Buffalo Sabres
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It’s safe to say that Patrick Kaleta understands his role – The winger will be the first to tell you he embraces the hard-hitting style that has become his trademark.

But Kaleta will also admit that there is room for improvement in his game, and when it comes to making some changes and increasing responsibility, his approach is always the same – at full-throttle.

“We’ve had talks, even yesterday morning, about how he wants me playing a full game,” Kaleta said of Head Coach Lindy Ruff. “He wants me to try to contribute a little bit more and focus on [different areas]… rather than my pinball style where I just run around and hit people.

Fast forward the interview to the 10-minute mark to hear Ruff's thoughts on Kaleta.

"I want him to think hockey. He probably got here because he had to think ‘I’ve got one crack at it. I’ve got to be an antagonizer and I’ve got to hit people.’ I still want that, but I want him to be able to play too."

To hear more click this link:
Lindy Ruff Interview

“And I’m behind him 100 percent.”

That’s not to say Kaleta will shy away from the physical part of the game. The winger believes that is what got him to the NHL and what, ultimately, will keep him in it. What he wants to do, rather, is channel that intensity into other areas – specifically on special teams.

“I love the penalty kill,” Kaleta said. “I love blocking shots, which is a little bit out of the ordinary, but I take pride in doing it.”

He earned praise from Ruff for his efforts in Monday night’s 2-1 win in Washington. Kaleta was credited with nine blocked shots, and together with Tim Kennedy shut down the Capitals’ top lines with a man down.

“Over the past little while… [my game] was more just about trying to make a mark and showing that I can play [in the NHL],” Kaleta said. “Last year it was about rounding out my game and the same is going to go this year.

“Hopefully I have the opportunity to contribute in ways that I haven’t in the past.”

His supporting cast may help him do so. The Sabres have made it a point to acquire grittier players, including Steve Montador and Mike Grier, which may serve to complement Kaleta’s style.

“Those are two guys that are veteran players and will stick up for their teammates and are willing to get their nose dirty,” Kaleta said. “I think that’s our identity for the team is that we’re going to be hardworking. We’re not going to have a couple guys out there hitting, we’re going to have a team as a whole where we go out as a unit and work hard as one.

“I think it plays into my hands a little bit more and my role will be a little more effective in the next coming years.”

Staying healthy will be a big factor.

Last season Kaleta was sidelined for a total of 27 games with a nagging head/neck injury that plagued him throughout the year. The ailment stemmed from a hard hit in Montreal by Canadiens’ winger Andrei Kostitsyn in November. The injury flared back up when Kaleta was struck by Kings’ defenseman Denis Gauthier the following month.

While he acknowledges that there are risks to playing a style that puts him in those situations, Kaleta said it comes with the territory.

“That’s the nature of the game,” Kaleta argued. “You can’t always be 100 percent. If I have to play through a couple bumps and bruises I’ll work through it.”

What he is working towards now is a postseason berth.

“It sucks sitting out and waiting the whole summer after missing the playoffs again. This year, for myself, I’m kind of jacked up, ready to go.

“I, along with all the other guys in this room, need to prove we can do it and do some damage this year... so I want to get the season started.”

Adam Mair rejoined his teammates on the ice Tuesday at HSBC Arena.

“Adam is doing a lot better,” Ruff said. “He’s not at full practice yet but can participate in the shooting drills.”

Mair had arthroscopic surgery on his hip Sept. 1 and was expected to miss a total of six weeks.

Ruff addressed centerman Derek Roy’s play in the preseason. While the Head Coach is generally pleased, he said he would like to see Roy take more shots when available – a reoccurring theme for the 26 year old.

“We talked about it in Zurich [Switzerland], we talked about it in Berne [Switzerland], we talked about it in Calgary. I’ve had a lot of time with Derek,” Ruff said, referring to his offseason positions with Team Canada. “I think he’s in agreement that we’ve got to get back to a more disciplined game, in that sense, that it isn’t a shinny game. He makes some special plays, you can’t take some of those special plays away because that’s part of his game. I would just like him to make some better decisions when it’s there.”
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