MONTREAL -- The Sabres have hugged it out and Patrick Kaleta is back in the lineup tonight at the Bell Centre.
That was the mood of the dressing room after today's pregame skate. Kaleta, suspended for five games and held out Sunday for another, was greeted by a swarm of Montreal media in the wake of Sunday's kerfluffle in Washington and said he had no issue with what Ryan Miller said after the game.
(The Sabres did not make Miller available to the media today even though Jhonas Enroth is starting; Miller, like many goalies, does not speak prior to games in which he is playing).
"He's like my brother, one of my best friends on the team," Kaleta said of Miller, his former road roommate. "Some things were misunderstood there but we're family. Our season hasn't gone the way we wanted it to go and everyone knows that. Our job is to come together as a team and go out there and battle."
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.
RALEIGH, N.C. -- With a disciplinary hearing coming at 3 p.m., the Sabres' Patrick Kaleta declined to get into specifics regarding Sunday's boarding penalty on the Rangers' Brad Richards. But he said this afternoon he feels like a "bag of garbage" for taking a penalty that led to two goals in the Sabres' 3-2 shootout loss, and he had nothing to say to Richards.
"I’m going to keep it as limited as I can, but I’m just sorry for the position I put the team in trying to kill that penalty," Kaleta said in the team hotel. "I feel for that, for putting the penalty killers out there and them getting the two goals. It makes me feel like a bag of garbage after seeing that.
The Sabres' Patrick Kaleta won't have to wait long to hear how long his latest suspension is for boarding the Rangers' Brad Richards.
Kaleta has a 3 p.m. phone hearing scheduled with the NHL. Though he is a repeat offender based on last season's four-game benching for head-butting, which will impact his penalty, an in-person meeting with discipline czar Brendan Shanahan would likely have signaled a longer suspension than whatever Kaleta gets.
The Sabres have a 1:15 p.m. practice scheduled in Raleigh, where they face the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.
Still, it was pretty odd how quickly Richards returned; NHL senior vice president for player safety Brendan Shanahan usually takes injuries into account on his supplemental discipline decisions and the fact Richards came right back will help Kaleta some. But only some.
Kaleta had a four-game suspension in 2011 for a head-butt and his reputation around the league is plain terrible. Look what Mark Spector, a senior columnist for Sportsnet.ca, tweeted last night: "Patrick Kaleta is a dangerous, irresponsible player. Has been for years. Game doesn't need him. Be a better place without him."
NEW YORK -- Patrick Kaleta apparently had nothing to say. The New York Rangers said plenty.
Kaleta was ejected in the third period of the Sabres' 3-2 shootout loss in New York on Sunday night for boarding Brad Richards. The Sabres right winger, who is expected to have a disciplinary hearing with the NHL, was not in the dressing room following the game. A team spokesman said he would not comment.
"That's just stupidity," Richards said of the hit. "If we're all going to look at each other's numbers, ram each other from behind headfirst into the boards, it's going to be a tough game to play. It's not hockey.
TORONTO -- Today is the first day since July 20, 1997 that Lindy Ruff is not the head coach of the Buffalo Sabres. Jeez. Think of everything that has gone on in the hockey world since then, or just simply in life.
For 12 players and three of the four assistant coaches on the roster, Ruff is the only head coach they've ever played for or worked under in the NHL. So it's pretty surreal that they're getting ready for tonight's game against the Toronto Maple Leafs without him.
The players and coaches were on the bus in Amherst yesterday to come to Toronto and some said it was odd Ruff wasn't there yet. When he showed up, he hopped on board and said he had some news. Several thought he was announcing a trade. Instead, he said he was fired and thanked them. And then he hopped off.
"That's when we totally realized changes were on the way," captain Jason Pominville said here today. "We all said, "We gotta go out there and see him.' It was pretty emotional for everyone."
UNIONDALE -- As paramedics stabilized his neck on a stretcher and prepared to take him to a hospital, Patrick Kaleta feared the worst.
"You get thoughts cruising through your mind there, hoping everything turns out all right, wondering if it’s my last game that I ever played, things like that," Kaleta said today in Nassau Coliseum. "Luckily, everything’s good and I’m able to come back and play."
The Sabres have hit the ice for practice in First Niagara Center -- a practice that was not on their schedule. The team had posted today as a day off and informed the media as such** but is now holding a normal workout.
(**We have inquired with the NHLPA about the practice. Under the new CBA, teams have to have two days off a month at home and two on the road and they must be planned in advance. They cannot be changed "absent compelling circumstances" and it's assumed that a mere slump like the 1-6-1 abyss the team is currently is would not qualify. Stay tuned for more on that.)
Robyn Regehr (ankle) skated on his own for about 20 minutes prior to the practice. Pat Kaleta is also back working out with the team as an extra forward. The injured Andrej Sekera and Christian Ehrhoff are not on the ice.
The one unexpected absentee is defenseman Mike Weber so there are only five D on the ice. We'll have to find out Weber's status after practice.
BOSTON -- It's been nearly 15 months but Milan Lucic-Ryan Miller was still on the media's minds today in TD Garden in advance of tonight's Sabres-Bruins game. Boston reporters swarmed new Sabres Steve Ott and John Scott in the locker room after the team's 40-minute pregame skate and peppered Lindy Ruff with questions about the Sabres' new approach.
Was adding Ott and Scott a reaction to Lucic? "It was just overall team toughness, make us a grittier team," said a clearly agitated Ruff. "It had nothing to do with the Bruins."
"You try to win the puck battles and the territorial battles. We have to win a game. Not coming out of here with points is not being successful. In a short season we need points. We've answered the physcial challenge. We've been there for each other from day one in this. We play a gritty style, a hitting style. We have to win games."
Patrick Kaleta won't be chirping at any Bruins Thursday like he did last week at Carolina's Chad LaRose. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)
By Mike Harrington
BOSTON -- Just landed at Logan Airport to official word from the Sabres on the status of injured winger Patrick Kaleta: He has been released from Buffalo General Hospital after being held for observation overnight but did not travel here for Thursday's game against the Bruins.
Coach Lindy Ruff said Kaleta was being checked for neck problems after taking a hit from behind from Toronto's Mike Brown in the first period. Kaleta, who has a history of neck issues from his robust style of play, left the ice groggily after the hit and was sent to the hospital after X-rays were done at First Niagara Center.
Ruff said after the game there was nothing concerning about the X-ray but it remains to be seen if that changed given the fact Kaleta was kept overnight.
There is no timetable yet for Kaleta's return. Look for Nathan Gerbe, who was scratched for Tuesday's overtime loss to Toronto, to take Kaleta's spot in the lineup Thursday.
John Vogl has been covering the Sabres since 2002-03, an era that has included playoff runs, last-place finishes and three ownership changes. The award-winning writer is the Buffalo chapter chairman for the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association.
Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, is in his sixth season covering the Buffalo Sabres. He is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and can vouch that exposed flesh freezes instantly when walking in downtown Winnipeg in January.