UNIONDALE — It would have been wise for Patrick Kaleta to wear a helmet during his meeting with Brendan Shanahan on Tuesday. As expected, Shanahan threw the book at him.
The NHL’s disciplinarian issued a 10-game suspension to Kaleta for a head shot delivered by the Buffalo Sabres forward last week.
The suspension was the longest of Kaleta’s career, but it wasn’t the first. The repeat offender status was a major factor in the lengthy penalty.
“It’s important to note that no matter who delivered this hit, it would have resulted in supplemental discipline,” Shanahan said in a video released by the department of player safety. “However, the fact that it was delivered by a player who has been fined or suspended six times in the last four seasons, the last time just 21 games ago, factors heavily into the severity of the decision.”
Kaleta has already served three games of the suspension, including a 4-3 shootout victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday. He is eligible to return Nov. 2 when the Sabres host the Anaheim Ducks.
Kaleta will forfeit $152,439 in salary because of his 10-game absence, and the money goes to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
The Sabres said neither Kaleta nor General Manager Darcy Regier was available for comment. Under terms of the collective bargaining agreement, Kaleta has seven days to appeal the decision to a neutral arbitrator.
Kaleta received a stern warning from Shanahan last season after earning a four-game suspension for boarding the New York Rangers’ Brad Richards. Kaleta also had a four-game suspension in 2011 (head butt) and a two-game ban in 2009 (boarding).
Kaleta’s latest suspension came after a run-in with Columbus’ Jack Johnson on Thursday. The defenseman had just released the puck when Kaleta came from the side for a hit that connected with Johnson’s head.
“Although Johnson is eligible to be checked, Kaleta takes an improper angle, misses Johnson’s body and does not make a full body check,” Shanahan said. “Instead, he hits Johnson directly on the chin with his left shoulder.
“Despite the fact that Johnson is in the act of coming to a stop, in our opinion it does not materially change the position of his head and body in such a way that significantly contributes to his head being the main point of contact.”
Rasmus Ristolainen returned to the lineup after a one-game trip upstairs. The 18-year-old said he deserved it.
“I didn’t play that good in Chicago, and I think I earned that time out of the lineup,” Ristolainen said. “I have to do a lot better to stay in the lineup.”
The eighth overall pick had his worst game Saturday against the Blackhawks, finishing minus-1 in a career-low 11:18 of ice time.
He learned from watching, he said, and hopes to improve his positioning and battle in front of the net.
“Hopefully, I’m more in the lineup than in the stands,” said the rookie, who played two seasons in Finland’s elite league. “It’s easier to play there. Here, there’s so much better players, so I also have to play better.”
Jamie McBain took a seat to make room for Ristolainen after playing in five straight.
While one first-round pick played, another sat. Mikhail Grigorenko was benched for the second time in four games.
The 19-year-old center was on the ice for Buffalo’s lone goal Monday in a 2-1 loss to Minnesota, but he played just 8:57. Grigorenko has no points in six games and has skated fewer than nine minutes in two of them.
Johan Larsson took Grigorenko’s spot in the middle of wingers Zemgus Girgensons and Brian Flynn.
John Scott returned to the lineup and skated on the fourth line with center Kevin Porter and Cody McCormick.