Buffalo Sabres right wing Patrick Kaleta (36) in play during the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in October.(Photo: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)
ROCHESTER, N.Y. - Over the weekend, Sabres GM Darcy Regier said that Patrick Kaleta had to change his game to save his career. The Angola native was placed on and cleared waivers, then reassigned to Rochester. Today, Kaleta skated through his first practice with the Amerks since 2008.
He said it has been a difficult few days. "You know, obviously it's a tough time for me." Kaleta added "I'm here to improve my game, and whatever I can do to improve it, that's what's going to happen."
Kaleta will be working with Randy Cunneyworth, who the Sabres just hired as a scout. It should be a good fit because Cunneyworth was also the coach of the Amerks when Kaleta last wore the red, white and blue.
Current Amerks Head Coach Chad Cassidy said "there's no time table, he's got to show the progress and that he can make it back to the National League and be an effective player there."
But the assignment also puts the Amerks in a bit of a bind, they are now over the league maximum for veteran players. That means one veteran will have to sit each game that Kaleta is with Rochester. One of those veterans, Matt Ellis, knows exactly what Kaleta is going through. Ellis has bounced back and forth from Buffalo to Rochester.
Ellis offered this advice, 'you've got to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and go to work."
That is exactly what Kaleta plans to do, improving his skills, staying physical, but backing off of his tendency of going after the big, and sometimes reckless, hits.
"I'm taking ownness of it too, right? I'm the one playing hockey so I have to change as quickly as the league is changing," said Kaleta.
As part of his new beginning, Kaleta will wear #27. It was the number he wore when he originally broke in with the Amerks. He selected the number back then in honor of his favorite player as a youth, Michael Peca.