BUFFALO – For days, Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta looked out a window in his Hamburg home and had one thought, “Man, when is this going to end?”
As foot after foot of snow from Winter Storm Knife piled up, Kaleta, like most Southtowns residents, got trapped. He spent three days shoveling and helping people.
“There was nothing I could do,” Kaleta said Friday following practice inside the First Niagara Center. “As my neighbors’ kids would say, I’m pretty grumpy.”
Finally, Kaleta made it to practice Friday. It wasn’t easy, though.
“I had to take the long way, but I was happy to get out there and practice, for sure,” Kaleta joked.
With most roadways closed, Kaleta had to find an alternate route. So he talked to some police friends and hatched a plan with Sabres trainer Tim Macre, who had also been stuck.
Right away, Kaleta had second thoughts when he hit McKinley Parkway.
“I was kind of double-guessing myself,” said Kaleta, who brought a shovel in his car.
It eventually got better. Kaleta drove from McKinley to Southwestern Boulevard to Transit Road to Genesee Street. He then took the 33 Expressway into the city.
“I felt pretty good today,” Kaleta said after long skate. “I don’t know what the plan is here.”
The plan was for Kaleta to stay behind and skate here as his teammates play the Washington Capitals tonight. He also plans to skate Sunday, an off day.
If everything goes well, Kaleta could play next week, Sabres coach Ted Nolan said. The Sabres want to ease the 28-year-old back into the lineup.
Kaleta just returned from a facial injury after tearing his ACL last season. He has played one NHL game, a 6-3 loss Nov. 13 in Minnesota, in 13 months. Nolan said that game was “motivational” and to give Kaleta a “spirit lift.”
“I didn’t really have a game plan,” Kaleta said. “I was just excited to get my first game in. Obviously, I hold myself to a higher expectation. Obviously, it wasn’t my greatest game I’ve ever played. It wasn’t my worst. But I have a lot to work on.
“I’m mad and angry that I’m not playing, more at myself. I expect more. Next time I can get in the lineup I’ll be prepared and ready to go.”
He was scheduled to sit out Tuesday’s 4-1 win against San Jose before he got stuck at home. Three days away from the Sabres set Kaleta back a little more, Nolan said.
Kaleta’s grateful for all the support.
“I can’t give enough credit to Teddy and the trainers for caring about us,” he said. “Sometimes it’s all about getting to the rink and riding the bike for 10 minutes. When your coach and your teammates and your training staff care about you and want you to be safe, when time comes, you’ll go the extra mile for them.
“It’s a great feeling to know you’re cared about as person and not just a hockey player.”
The game between the Sabres and New York Rangers originally scheduled for Friday has been rescheduled for Feb. 20, 2015.
That means the game between the Sabres and Ottawa Senators scheduled for that night has been moved to Dec. 15.
That creates an odd back-to-back set in which the Sabres play in Winnipeg the next night.
After Jhonas Enroth replaced Michael Neuvirth (lower body) for the final 40 minutes Tuesday, Nolan saw the same goalie that dazzled during the preseason.
“The one thing I really saw was that fight – that fight that I saw in training camp when he wanted that No. 1 position,” he said. “He wanted to grab a hold of it again. The other night it seemed like déjà vu all over again, especially that Dominik Hasek-type of save in the second.”
That crazy save – Enroth stopped Jason Demers with his back – had many fans making Hasek comparisons.
“That’s going to happen when you play here, when you’re wearing a Buffalo Sabres jersey and you make a save like that,” Enroth said. “But I was pretty lucky on that save. Hasek, that was one of his routine saves, I guess.”
Enroth will start tonight. In his last three nods, the Swede has allowed a combined 16 goals. Pittsburgh scored 11 in two games.
“I think I’ve played well up until the two Pittsburgh games, there’s two tough games,” Enroth said. “I got put in a tough situation, and I didn’t really play the way I wanted to. I kind of slipped a little bit there. I feel like I’m trying to recover from that now and feeling pretty good right now.”