Patrick Kaleta has a long history of questionable hits. ©2013, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

NHL bans Sabres’ Kaleta 5 games for Richards hit

BUFFALO – The NHL has suspended agitator Patrick Kaleta five games for knocking Rangers star Brad Richards into the boards from behind while killing a penalty in the Sabres’ 3-2 shootout loss Sunday in New York, NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan announced this afternoon.

Kaleta can return to the lineup March 17 in Washington. He will forfeit $76,219.25 in salary

He was assessed a five-minute boarding major and a game misconduct at 3:28 of the third period after cross-checking Richards at the outside edge of the left faceoff circle. In a scary scene, Richards tumbled headfirst into the boards, his neck twisting as he hit.

Richards grimaced in pain on the ice for a minute or two before skating off. He later returned to the game.

Not surprisingly, the hit incensed the Rangers.

“It’s probably one of the most dangerous hits I’ve seen,” a “fuming” Rangers coach John Tortorella told reporters following the game, according to the New York Daily News. “It’s ridiculous. … It’s disgusting. It’s a lack of respect. Each team wants to beat the other team, but you need to respect what’s going on on the ice.”

Richards said Kaleta’s hit was “a little different than a head shot.” He called it “just stupidity.”

“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,” Richards told reporters. “It’s not hockey. I don’t know what game he plays, actually. He doesn’t play hockey to begin with. It’s the same guy all the time.”

Richards said he “couldn’t breathe to start” following the hit.

“I just kind of tried to collect myself, do a mental check … (then) I got in a tunnel and heard a goal right away,” he said. “We needed to get something going so at least we got something out of it.”

The Rangers scored two quick power-play goals to briefly grab the lead.

Opponents loathe Kaleta. The 26-year-old winger’s aggressive play and history of questionable hits have put him under the microscope.

When Shanahan suspended Kaleta four games for head-butting Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek early last season, he cited several previous incidents.

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