Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

February 13, 2012

Sabres agitator Kaleta earning more ice as he alters his style

(Continued)

BUFFALO —

Yes, Kaleta still enjoys Legos. He loves having fun.

But what if Milbury hears that Kaleta still plays with toys?

Like it or not, Kaleta’s reputation has always superseded his talent. Officials and opponents target him. The Angola native’s a marked man.

NHL discipline czar Brendan Shanahan cited past offenses while explaining Kaleta’s four-game head-butting suspension in November. Another player likely would’ve gotten off.

Clearly, Kaleta’s cognizant he’s being watched. He’s calmed down recently and started showcasing a more responsible style.

“He’s definitely altered his game,” Sabres coach Lindy Ruff said. “I think he realizes he’s a marked man and he doesn’t get any slack one way or the other. But he’s skated well. He’s stayed away from some of these situations and he hasn’t put himself where the referee has an opportunity to make as easy call.”

Kaleta said he’s “been working non-stop on my game since the beginning of the year.”

“I had to change a little bit using my speed,” he said. “When I’m able, I can use that to my advantage, too. Overall, (I’m) just staying patient and going out there and playing hockey.”

Kaleta and Gaustad spent much of the summer working out together on and off the ice. Their chemistry illustrates it.

Ruff said the Kaleta, Gaustad and Brad Boyes combination was the Sabres’ top line during a recent stretch. Nathan Gerbe and Ville Leino have replaced Boyes in the past few days.

“That line has played well,” Ruff said. “ … You (can) go back to the difference they’ve made probably three of the last five games.”

The line sometimes faces the opposition’s best.

“We really take pride in that,” Kaleta said. “We worked hard in the summer together in trying to build a tandem out there so we know where each other are and what’s going to happen. I take pride in going out there and trying to shut down, take away the other team’s top guy.”

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