RALEIGH, N.C. — Patrick Kaleta admits he’s a little paranoid on the road now. He no longer has a roommate because of a new rule in the collective bargaining agreement, and he’s worried he’ll miss a meeting, team meal or bus ride to the rink.
“The past two times I’ve had guys make sure that I’m up,” the Buffalo Sabres forward said Thursday. “It’s just the paranoia of making sure you’re up and not being able to rely on your roommate in case you do forget.”
The Sabres have taken two trips so far, and everyone’s shown up for their assignments. But the CBA addition has changed the road dynamic.
“Fifty percent of me likes it, 50 percent of me wishes I had a roommate to talk to and hang out with,” Kaleta said.
The players have traded camaraderie for privacy with the new rule, which entitles every player who is past his entry-level contract to his own hotel room. While guys no longer have to deal with heavy snorers or someone who likes to sleep with the television on while they prefer silence, there’s also an aspect of loneliness.
There is ample downtime on the road — especially after nighttime arrivals and between the morning skates and games — and teammates typically bonded during the breaks.
“Now it’s a lot of hours where you’re spending time alone,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “You have nobody to talk to. We’ve even had one request where guys want to room together still, so I think it’s funny when you’re offered something and all of a sudden you’re rooming by yourself and think, ‘You know, this isn’t as fun as it used to be.’
“In the history of the game, you had a roommate that you could sit there for a couple hours with and kibitz, talk hockey. Now you’re sitting in a room all by yourself for a couple hours, and I think that’s a lot different.”
The only Sabres on their entry-level contracts are forwards Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno and Mikhail Grigorenko. The other 20 players are free to have their own room, though Thomas Vanek and Andrej Sekera elected to share a suite in Raleigh. The old rule for a room was 600 games or 10 years in the NHL; only defenseman Robyn Regehr (905 games) and forward Jochen Hecht (789) met that criteria.
Regehr occasionally misses bonding with roommates and says players need to take steps to ensure teams stay tight.
“When I really enjoyed them was after a game,” Regehr said. “You’re traveling and you get into some other city, and it’s very hard to get to sleep anyway because you’re wound up. We sit around, talk a little bit — we call it the hot stove — so we just sit around and have a little hot stove. You talk about whatever. Usually it is hockey, but you can just talk about whatever you feel like. Usually, you get a chance to really get to know that person a lot better.
“There is an element there that I think we’ll miss out on.”
Hall of Fame broadcaster Rick Jeanneret, who has not called a game this season while recovering from an illness, is not expected to return to the booth until Sunday in Washington at the earliest.
He didn’t make the trip to Carolina for Thursday’s 6-3 loss to the Hurricanes, and he will miss the rematch tonight in First Niagara Center.
The Sabres have placed forward Ville Leino on injured reserve with a leg injury. The move is retroactive to Sunday. Leino, who did not accompany the Sabres to Carolina, is eligible to return after seven days.
The move cleared a roster spot for forward Nathan Gerbe, who was activated from IR and made his season debut. Gerbe had a rough welcome to the lineup. He dumped the puck into the Carolina zone midway through the first period and was rudely crushed into the boards from behind by winger Drayson Bowman.
Gerbe said Wednesday he was looking forward to the first test on his surgically repaired back, but being the recipient of a boarding penalty was obviously not what he had in mind. He angrily joined a scrum after the hit to go after Bowman.
“That’s something that made me go in for the back surgery from the start,” Gerbe said. “I’m expecting to be sore. Right now it’s not too bad, but I’m sure [today] it’ll be a different story.”
The Sabres’ second annual “Bowl-A-Rama” will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. Feb. 24 at Transit Lanes. Entry for a team of five bowlers, age 21 and over, starts at $1,000 and features an opportunity to bowl with a Sabres player or celebrity. See Sabres.com/bowling for details.
Buffalo fans had a record-setting response last week to the Sabres’ 50 percent off sale to welcome back the NHL. The Sabres sold nearly 50,000 pieces of merchandise, a total that eclipsed the entire 2010-11 season. More than 8,000 jerseys and 9,000 hats were sold at the Sabres Store in the arena.