BUFFALO – Following the end of another injury-filled season in which he played only 42 games, Sabres winger Patrick Kaleta received some good news.
“I passed my physical for the first time in five years, so that was a positive this morning,” Kaleta said Sunday as the Sabres cleaned out their lockers inside the First Niagara Center.
That’s how banged up the passionate Kaleta has been over the years.
This season, a year after tearing his ACL, the Angola native broke his face blocking shot during a preseason game and underwent surgery in February for a bone chip in his knee.
“I don’t think people realize how serious they are just because I take it with a smile and whatever,” Kaleta said. “But breaking your face and tearing your ACL is kind of serious.”
Now, with his three-year contract done, Kaleta’s ready to sacrifice his body again.
“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.”
After Saturday’s season-ending 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh, the thought of having played his last game for the Sabres overwhelmed the 28-year-old.
“This organization and my teammates and the Buffalo Sabres crest means so much to me that it’s hard for me to explain,” Kaleta said. “I’m glad you guys didn’t interview me yesterday, because I handled it better than I thought I would. I was still emotional, even though I don’t know what my future holds.
It’s not crazy to think the Sabres could re-sign Kaleta to a one-year deal. He offers them depth, a solid checker and – when he’s healthy – a supreme agitator.
Kaleta, the longest-tenured Sabre, has experienced a little bit of everything since breaking into the NHL eight years ago. Before the Sabres fell to the bottom of the league, he played his first seven games on the Sabres’ 2006-07 Presidents’ Trophy-winning club and was a big part of two playoff teams in 2010 and 2011.
The Sabres’ recent downturn has left him feeling like he let down the fans and the Sabres who played before him.
“You take pride in continuing the pride for the Sabres,” Kaleta said.
Some of those fans, of course, recently rooted against the Sabres so they would lose and secure the first or second draft pick in June.
“I don’t really like it, but I understand it,” Kaleta said. “My philosophy is play it as it lies. If you win you win, you lose you lose. I think the big guy upstairs has a plan for everything. 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. I understood. I’m a Buffalo guy. I’m always cheering for Buffalo teams regardless of the cause.”
Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges, whose season ended Feb. 10, underwent surgery for micro-fracture in his knee, he revealed Sunday. The 30-year-old has a six-month recovery.
The injury eventually became too much to handle. His recovery is on schedule or even ahead, he said. He should be ready by mid-August.
“I should be more than ready to play,” Gorges said.
Sabres winger Evander Kane, out since undergoing shoulder surgery in February, is no longer sporting a sling.
“It’s nice to have some range of motion back and make my shoulder a functioning member of my body,” Kane joked.
Kane, the biggest piece in the Feb. 11 blockbuster trade with Winnipeg, still hasn’t played for the Sabres. The 23-year-old has been keeping tabs on his new team as he rehabs at home. He plans to return to Los Angeles soon.
Notes: Winger Cody Hodgson, who endured a brutal six-goal, 13-point season, was adamant he wants to stay in Buffalo. “I love it here,” he said. The 25-year-old had 20 goals and 44 points in six fewer games last season. … Center Mikhail Grigorenko said he will finish the season in Rochester. … Winger Tyler Ennis will represent Team Canada at the upcoming world championship in Prague. “It’s a huge honor,” he said. “It’s going to be fun, especially coming off a frustrating year. I kind of got to take it as maybe the playoffs for me.” … Center Zemgus Girgensons, whose season ended after blocking a shot with his ankle Feb. 24, said he was close to returning. … The NHL has officially announced the draft lottery will take place Saturday at 8 p.m. The Sabres have the greatest odds, just 20 percent, of getting the No. 1 pick.
Update: In addition to Grigorenko, the Sabres also sent goalie Matt Hackett, center Johan Larsson, defenseman Chad Ruhwedel and center Phil Varone to Rochester today.