By Bill Hoppe
The NHL has suspended winger Patrick Kaleta four games without pay for head-butting Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek on Wednesday.
At the 4:58 mark of the Sabres’ 3-2 loss, Kaleta, in a scrum along the boards, separated from the pack, “driving his head upward and into his opponent’s face,” NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan said in a video posted on NHL.com Thursday announcing his decision.
To replace Kaleta, the Sabres recalled 22-year-old winger Corey Tropp from Rochester. The second-year pro has four goals and seven points in 10 AHL games.
Kaleta’s history factored greatly in the decision, Shanahan said. He used two examples to illustrate his point. Last October, Kaleta head-butted New Jersey’s Travis Zajac, earning a fine. In February, he rammed Atlanta’s Tobias Enstrom in a similar fashion.
“This recent history of ramming his head into the faces of opponents, regardless of whether he is trying to free the puck, leads us to believe this act is intentional,” Shanahan said.
The latest head-butt wasn’t penalized, however.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff believes the 25-year-old Kaleta, one of the league’s top agitators and hitters, had no intent to harm Voracek.
“He didn’t look at him, he was trying to bully his way into the pileup,” Ruff said shortly before Kaleta’s hearing began Thursday afternoon. “I didn’t think there was anything deliberate about it. There is head contact.”
Kaleta can return Nov. 12 in Boston.