BUFFALO – Instead of sporting a black NHLPA jersey or turning his Sabres sweater inside out again to conceal the crest, Patrick Kaleta dressed properly for his informal skate Monday, with the logo he has worn so proudly for nine seasons displayed on his chest.
A one-year AHL contract brought Kaleta, a free agent for 10 weeks, back to the organization he loves dearly on Saturday. The Sabres also gave the popular winger a professional tryout for NHL training camp, meaning he could skate in some exhibition games after training camp opens later this week.
Kaleta, of course, is grateful for the opportunities. Still, going to the Rochester Americans, a team he hasn’t played for regularly since 2007-08, isn’t his goal.
“I know everyone’s counting me out and putting me in Rochester again,” Kaleta said Monday.
The Angola native said the new contract is simply “a step in the right direction.” He’s out to prove he’s still an NHL talent and earn another contract.
“The ultimate goal is to keep putting on the real sweater … and prove everyone wrong that thinks I shouldn’t be on the team,” Kaleta said. “I have a lot of stuff that needs to be done this week. 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.”
He added: “The door’s open a little bit. Now it’s my turn to push it open and make the squad.”
Kaleta, 29, said he’s “probably the most determined I’ve ever been,” so expect him to showcase his usual aggressiveness.
“When I shoot, I’m shooting to score,” he said. “When I hit, I’m imagining it’s (New England Patriots quarterback) Tom Brady.”
Can you tell Kaleta, a diehard Buffalo Bills fans, is ready for Sunday’s tilt at Ralph Wilson Stadium?
Kaleta’s ultra-aggressive approach has gotten him into trouble throughout his nine year-career. The league has suspended him four times in his 348-game career. Numerous injuries – he has only cracked the 60-game mark once – have dogged him. Last season, months after recovering from a torn ACL, he broke bones in his face and underwent surgery to remove a bone chip from his knee.
Kaleta, one of the NHL’s best agitators, insists he has recovered. He said his legs are in “the best condition they can be going into camp.”
“I think right now they’ll be pleasantly surprised with my stride and seeing my legs back,” he said.
Kaleta said he could’ve pursued other opportunities, but he only wanted to play for one team.
“I was always focused on my plan, and my plan was to wear the Blue and Gold,” he said. “I’ve sacrificed everything. I’ve sacrificed my body over and over again. I’ve given anything and everything I have to this team and this organization. I want to continue.”