Patrick Kaleta has never been known for scoring goals or creating opportunities in front of the net. His physical style of play is the biggest reason why he has even made it this far, but the Angola native is still looking to prove people wrong.
His career started with one of the most memorable Sabres games in recent history. Flashback to February 22, 2007, when Kaleta made his NHL debut against the Ottawa Senators. The Sabres’ forward had family and friends at the arena to witness him play in his first game. They didn’t know they’d be in for a whole lot more.
Ottawa and Buffalo combined for 100 penalty minutes as a line brawl developed after captain Chris Drury took a dirty hit and was down in the ice, bleeding. Kaleta was then one of the players that was sent out for the next faceoff, and the brawl ensued.
Since then, Kaleta made himself known in the National Hockey League, but not in the most positive of ways. His aggressive and physical play agitated opponents on a nightly basis, but it caused him to receive multiple suspensions.
At one point, former general manager Darcy Regier had told him that he needed to severely change his playing style if he wanted to wear blue and gold again. Current head coach Dan Bylsma had a dislike for Kaleta in the past as he had to face him a couple of times a year.
To go along with that, Kaleta has been hampered by injuries and has recently returned to action for the Amerks.
Kaleta showed determination to make it back to the Sabres team while trying out in September. A one-year AHL contract kept his Sabres career alive, although he could’ve had a shot on another team as well.
“The ultimate goal is to keep putting on the real sweater … and prove everyone wrong that thinks I shouldn’t be on the team. I’m determined. I’m focused. It is nerve-wracking a little bit, but then again you got to step and take control of your destiny.” – Patrick Kaleta
Kaleta missed the first two months of this season after aggravating an injury in October. He’s also been a healthy scratch for Rochester four times since returning. However, he’s been getting back to his game and has his eyes set on returning to the NHL.
At 29 years old, Kaleta still has plenty of time left to crack the roster.
His last NHL game was April 11, 2015, and he was concerned that it might be his last with the team. After that game, Kaleta has made it clear that he was, and still is, devoted to this team.
“I would do anything to be back here next year or years to come or whatever the case may be,” he said. “If I can give my right arm to be here, I would. I’d try to play with one arm if I had to.”
A year after tearing his ACL, Kaleta blocked a shot off of his face and had a bone chip repaired in his knee. Although they were serious injuries, they didn’t deter him from his main focus.
“There’s a point where you have to learn from some things,” Kaleta said last spring. “I go out there, I’ve had four hand surgeries. I broke my whole face. I’ve done a lot of stuff. A lot of players could just kind of hang it up and get into the summer, see where it goes. But I’m not just that type of guy. If I come back and – knock on wood – need to block a shot with whatever part of my body I need to or sacrifice my body for the team, then I’m going to do it.”
He’ll have to continue to play hard in Rocherster, but the Sabres don’t exactly have a physical player of that caliber in their lineup. They have a couple of guys who can hit or drop the gloves. They lost some of that recently as Nicolas Deslauriers went down with an injury.
Kaleta may not be willing to fight opponents, especially after having facial surgery, but he could assist in games against more physical teams. Buffalo play Boston three times over the next month, and also have Phildelphia and Toronto on the upcoming schedule. It may be a good opportunity for him to get a call up, especially if any more players get hit with injuries.
Kaleta has played nine games for the Amerks this season, recording a goal and 11 penalty minutes.
“I’m starting to feel good, my speed and stuff,” he said. I’ve learned for the past two years if you believe in yourself, you believe in a cause, I think you’ll find your way there. I believe in my team and my teammates and myself.”