By Mike Harrington
WASHINGTON -- Interim coach Ron Rolston didn't do any line work today during a brief pregame skate in the Verizon Center so there was no way to tell which two of the Sabres' forwards were getting scratched tonight against the Capitals. Patrick Kaleta, now eligible after serving a five-game suspension, was doing late work with John Scott but the media assumed that was simply extra skating in the wake of his absence.
Wrong. Rolston stunned reporters by announcing Kaleta is a scratch.
He apparently stunned Kaleta too when the Angola native got to the rink this morning.
Multiple observers said Kaleta was screaming his disgust on the ice during the work while reporters were in the locker room and having their pregame briefing from Rolston. And when the media got to Kaleta, he didn't hold back about the state of a team that's 13th in the East and going nowhere.
"I'm pissed off. I want to play," Kaleta said. "And especially after watching some things, sitting there watching the game, I want to play. ... I guess they don't need me right now I guess. I've been pissed off watching for the past couple weeks. No matter if you're a fan, a player, you guys know what's going on. You should be pissed off. You should play with a little piss and vinegar. You shouldn't be happy. We're not in position we want to be in. We have to work harder, come in and do something about it."
It should be noted the locker room was empty, with most players having already left, when Kaleta was speaking. Kaleta said Rolston gave him no reason for the decision to keep him out of the lineup. Rolston told reporters he didn't want to disrupt his current line combinations.
"That's between me and the coach and I have to listen to what he wants," Kaleta said. "Obviously I'm going to be pissed off for today and not be too pleasant. I think about it, let it bother me for a little bit and move on and prepare myself. Hopefully the team will want me back here in the next couple of games."
Rolston's initial response when asked why Kaleta wasn't playing was, "Who are we going to take out?"
Pressed on the issue, Rolston said, "He understands what just happened and the way he's got to play. But again, we want to balance the way he plays and not take that away from him either because that's what makes him a valuable hockey player in the league.
"On the other hand, it's a situation where he understands that sitting out five games for him wasn't a good thing and it wasn't a good thing for our team. We have to make adjustments and he has to make adjustments going forward."
Based on Kaleta's reaction, it sure looks and sounds like an extra game handed out by the coach and maybe even by his teammates. Like they should have any say.
As for other notes today, Andrej Sekera is out and Mark Pysyk, the team's No. 1 draft choice in 2010, is making his NHL debut tonight on defense. Ryan Miller will be in goal.
Click below to hear the audio from Kaleta and Rolston. Rolston talks about Kaleta early and I went back to it later in the interview because I was baffled by what was going on. Remember, we talked to Rolston first.
taggedPatrick Kaleta | Ron Rolston