KALETA BUILDING CHARACTER
Friday, 04.16.2010 / 4:19 PM ET / News
By Erin Pollina - Sabres.com
|BUFFALO, NY - APRIL 15: Zdeno Chara #33 of the Boston Bruins and Patrick Kaleta #36 of the Buffalo Sabres exchange words during a first period skirmish at Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at HSBC Arena on April 15, 2010 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)|
“You feel good when you’re cut, you feel good when you block the shot, and you feel good when you’ve got your nose broken,” he said following Buffalo’s 2-1 win over Boston. “If you don’t [experience that], then you don’t feel part of it.”
If there’s anyone who can relate, it’s Patrick Kaleta.
The winger was all smiles Friday morning, sporting a large gash above his left eye, accompanied by several stitches, some swelling and of course a little bruising.
It’s business as usual for the 23 year old who has been rousing his teammates throughout the 2009-10 season with gritty play, a lot of energy and a team-leading 148 hits.
“We just have to teach him how to not lead with his face so much,” Ryan Miller joked.
Kaleta received his latest battle scar after a scrum in the second period along boards. As he went into the thick of it to aid his teammates, Boston’s Steve Begin hit the winger hard into the glass, resulting in a total of 10 stitches.
“I think that if he didn’t get [a black eye] last night he would have put makeup on today probably,” Ruff laughed. “That’s just the type of guy he is.”
“He sets the tone,” Miller said.
“If you look back in Detroit, [Tomas] Holmstrom, whatever it is he just really grinds on people. Pittsburgh had [Matt] Cooke last year – same thing. Patty, I think for his part is maybe a little in between those guys. He plays with a good edge but I saw a few times last night that he held up because it wasn’t the right opportunity to take a hit or a run. When he does crash into the boards it just means that he thinks it’s a little late and he might put our team at a disadvantage so he does a good job of paying attention to that kind of stuff.”
And he does it all with a small amount of ice time. In Game 1, Kaleta amassed a grand total of 6:07 minutes of playing time. In the regular season, he averaged 10:09 minutes.
“He definitely got the most bang for his buck,” Ruff said. “He had the most fun, created the most havoc, look the most beat up and drew penalties. But that’s what he is. On the same side of it he has scored some real big goals for us. He’s done a lot … he’s got a handicap – and he’s still making the best of it.”
In addition to the usual bumps and bruises, Kaleta has also been sporting a cast due surgery he underwent for his thumb in late March. The injury caused him to miss eight games, but he returned in time for the final contest of the regular season.
While there is admittedly a bit of limitation on what he can do with the cast, Kaleta was still able to do what he does best – get under the skin of his opponents.
However, in his NHL playoff debut, it wasn’t the physical element Kaleta displayed that irked the Bruins the most. Rather, it was his offensive prowess.
Because as Craig Rivet accepted a pass from Tim Kennedy late in the second period and blasted a shot near the blue line, it was Kaleta who stood in goalie Tuukka Rask’s way and allowed Buffalo to take a 2-1 lead.
“I’m just happy that we won,” Kaleta said with a grin. “It takes a lot of little things to add up to a big thing, and the big thing is a win.”
The black eye is just another one for his collection.