MONTREAL – All is good. That was the message Tuesday from the Buffalo Sabres after they apparently hugged out all the jaw-flapping that marked their trip to Washington on Sunday.
Rewinding: Patrick Kaleta blew a gasket after the morning skate about being a healthy scratch in his first game eligible after a five-game suspension. Ryan Miller than criticized Kaleta after the game with the kicker words being, “he needs to just grow up.”
Miller and Kaleta, it should be noted, were roommates on the road the last three years. They made sure everything was good here Monday.
“He’s like my brother, one of my best friends on the team,” Kaleta said after Tuesday’s morning skate, facing a phalanx of Montreal media. “”Some things were misunderstood there but we’re family. Our season hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to go and everyone knows that. Our job is to come together as a team and go out there and battle.”
“We’ve actually been telling Patty to grow up for years. He brings his Legos on the road,” said a laughing captain Jason Pominville, referring to Kaleta’s elaborate hobby collection.
With Montreal reporters swarming the dressing room, Miller was not made available to reporters. He normally does not speak on days he’s playing but Jhonas Enroth was in goal for Tuesday’s game against the Canadiens that did not end in time for this edition.
During the Sabres’ off day Monday, the team orchestrated an interview for its Web site with Miller that it tweeted links to multiple times. In the interview, Miller revealed he had apologized to Kaleta and said he was frustrated with the manner questions were presented to him by The News about what Kaleta had said.
“We’re going to try to move on from that,” Miller said. “Either way, I probably shouldn’t have handled it like that but again, frustrated. I think everyone in Buffalo knows I’m prone to say stupid things that come up over the course of the season. I just wanted to make sure I’ve handled it with Patty.
“That’s why you don’t usually say anything in the media. I made a critical mistake there and I should know better. Pat was not real happy but we’ve known each other a long time, we were able to settle things down. Pat’s got a big heart, he’s an important part of this team and we obviously want him on this team and want him to play hard for us.”
Video of Kaleta’s rant and Miller’s postgame response ran all day on national television outlets in Canada, and audio was broadcast multiple times an hour in Buffalo on WGR as well as being posted on Buffalonews.com.
Other players said Tuesday they considered the issue over.
“To be honest with you, it was kind of blown out of proportion,” Pominville said. “They’ve talked, they’re good buddies, they were roommates for three years. I don’t think it has any effect on the team at all. The whole story just took off and everyone ran with it.”
“It definitely wasn’t an issue in this dressing room,” said Steve Ott. “We actually, to be honest with you, have a really tight, close team. That’s something that tough because there’s a lot of negativity in losing. You want to continue to find the ‘positivity’ in winning when everybody is happy. We hold each other in here strongly accountable.”
Interim coach Ron Rolston said he understood why Kaleta was angry Sunday and had no problem with it.
“We want players to be not happy when they’re not playing,” Rolston said. “We want players like that. If they’re not in that mindset, than you probably don’t want them on your team.”
“Every single guy here in the dressing room wants him to continue to play that way,” said Ott. “I don’t want his game to change. I want him to be a factor like that and I know we all do in this room. Be on that edge. It keeps a lot of guys out there honest, if not a little bit nervous when he’s on the ice.”
Rolston added that Kaleta, a key shot-blocker on the Buffalo penalty-killing unit, pushes bounds of the rules and the Sabres need him to not shy away from situations out of fear of another suspension.
“He’s got to play the way he is. If he doesn’t, then we’re taking away what he gives to the team,” Rolston said. “He just has to find the line he can play on and below and not go over the line. But if you take away his game, you take away him as a player.”
“People don’t really realize how valuable he is,” Ott said. “They think he runs around and hits guys but he ‘eats shots’ like I haven’t seen a teammate eat them for a long time. The other stuff that he does, he battles, he’ll fight you and he’s tough as well.”
The Sabres scratched John Scott, Nathan Gerbe and injured defenseman Andrej Sekera, who remains day to day. Rookie and former top draft pick Mark Pysyk played his second NHL game in Sekera’s place. ... The Sabres will be back here to play the Canadiens again Saturday night. Their next game is Thursday at home against Toronto.