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by Brian Wheeler / Buffalo Sabres
Defenseman Mike Card
Talk about a role reversal.

A year ago, forward Pat Kaleta and defenseman Mike Card were the wide-eyed prospects entering their first rookie camp.

Both are on the opposite end of the spectrum after a season of AHL hockey with the Rochester Americans.  The duo is part of a "veteran" core at the Sabres 2007 Rookie Camp that concludes today.

Oh what a difference 365 days can make.

"Last year, I was a rookie in Rochester," said Card, who scored a goal and added eight assists in 50 games for the Amerks last season.  "When I came up here, I was pretty young, but it's different now that the veterans are not around.    There are a few of us that has been around for two or three years.  I guess you could say that we're the older guys. 

"But when you look at some of the younger guys that are 18 and just out of high school last year, they probably have a few nerves coming in.  I know I did."

It's a popular topic among the vets at the camp; how they've changed and how it's strange to be the ones answering the questions.

NHL experience - going to the show - is a big deal to junior players.

Forward Patrick Kaleta
"I guess if I have to be a leader, I'll be a leader," laughed Kaleta, who recorded 15 points (5+10) with Rochester in 58 games and two assists in seven with Buffalo.  "I'm not afraid to shy away from anything."

Daniel Paille acted as the ambassador last season.  Andrew Peters picked up the ax two years ago.  Each season the team's new prospects are greeted by local members of the Sabres.  Dinners, car rides and stories are exchanged.

It's a tradition that has helps foster the cohesion of the locker room, smooths the transition process for the youngsters and speaks volumes for the caliber of players on the team.

"The first time through I was kind of clueless," said Card.  "I didn't know anyone here or anything about the program.  After you get done with your first camp, you know everyone, you know your way around and what the program is about.   It's a lot easier now.

"I feel like I'm getting old.  I just turned 21 but I feel a little older now."

"We should give credit to the guys we draft here in Buffalo," said Kaleta.  "All the guys here are character guys.  They're really good guys on the ice and off the ice, and will help you out whenever.   For the younger guys coming in, I'm just trying to make them feel comfortable because that's a big part of being here. 

"That wore off on me a little bit [when he came to his first camp].  Hopefully, it will continue to do that with them."
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