NEWARK. N.J. — Just when the Buffalo Sabres were planning to bring him back to the NHL, it appears Patrick Kaleta’s season is over.
The Angola native suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee late in the Rochester Americans’ game Friday night in Blue Cross Arena and is expected to need season-ending surgery, a source told The News on Saturday.
Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan couldn’t confirm that diagnosis prior to Saturday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils, but revealed the Sabres were going to bring Kaleta back to Buffalo as soon as Monday’s practice. Nolan said Kaleta was going back into the lineup for Thursday’s game against the New York Rangers.
Kaleta was sent to Rochester after clearing waivers by former General Manager Darcy Regier following his 10-game suspension issued in mid-October by the NHL. In an effort to rekindle his career, he had played a clean style in Rochester with just two penalty minutes in seven games. He had one goal and three assists.
“We already spoke to him. It was in the works,” Nolan said. “He had to get some more games and unfortunately things like that happen. We were definitely going to bring him back.”
The Sabres, of course, just jettisoned a physical player as they waived Corey Tropp on Wednesday hoping to get him through to Rochester. But Tropp was claimed Thursday by Columbus. It’s more clear now Tropp was expendable in the Sabres’ minds because Kaleta was going to return.
Kaleta was injured when he somersaulted over Lake Erie goalie Calvin Pickard while cutting in on the goal and his knee struck the crossbar. The injury came late in Rochester’s 5-3 win and Kaleta had to be helped off the ice, putting no weight on his leg.
“You can tell he’s a little down but he’s a strong guy,” said Sabres winger Luke Adam, who spoke to Kaleta Saturday morning. “I told him that he’ll be back and be stronger than ever. This is going to give him a lot of time to evaluate his game and how it’s gone.”
Adam played with Kaleta when he first arrived in Rochester and said the seven-year NHL veteran had been a major influence in the Rochester dressing room.
“When he came down, he was nothing but professional,” Adam said. “and I can’t say enough good things about Pat and how he handled it.”
Adam was thrilled to net his first goal in four games with Buffalo this season in Friday’s overtime win over Toronto. He was in perfect position to the left of James Reimer to pot a rebound.
“As you get older, you know where the spots are on the ice,” Adam said Saturday. “It’s a little bit of a hope play, hoping he’ll kick that rebound out. But if he does, that’s where it’s gonna be. I was lucky enough to bury it home.”
Adam said he was having success in Rochester because other parts of his game turned into offense and is trying to keep the same philosophy in Buffalo.
“Especially since I got here, I’m playing in a third-line role trying to play with a lot of energy and keeping it simple,” he said. “Chipping pucks in, chipping pucks out, being strong on the wall. ... Offense can come with all that. And I’m getting even more confident.”
Leftovers from Friday night’s emotional victory:
• Christian Ehrhoff’s winning goal actually went through the skate blade of Toronto defenseman Carl Gunnarsson before eluding goaltender James Reimer.
“It looks on one angle like it did go through the skate and another angle it looked like it was behind the skate but I didn’t really care how it went in,” Nolan said. “It went in. It was great for Ehrhoff to get a big goal like that.”
Added Adam: “It’s more common than people think it is, moreso when guys get passes through their feet. It’s not as magnified as much as it is in a goal in overtime.”
• The Sabres had a good laugh at the shower of beer cans they endured at the end of a home win, ostensibly tossed on the ice by the legions of Leafs fans in the house.
Tweeted captain Steve Ott: “Thanks to the Toronto fans that donated their Tall Boys, we had the trainers grab them for a nice day off. #Classy.”
The tweet had nearly 3,000 retweets or favorite notations in the 18 hours after it was posted around midnight Friday.
• It was the Sabres’ first overtime winner since Ott’s power-play goal on March 19 in Montreal – and their first OT winner at home since Derek Roy’s power-play goal beat the Leafs on April 3, 2012.
The Sabres lost their only previous home overtime this season to Tampa Bay and were 0-2 in home-deciding OT goals in last year’s lockout-shortened campaign.
• Ryan Miller improved to 31-15-1-1 in his career against the Leafs with a 2.44 GAA and .922 save percentage. Miller and New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur, neither of whom played Saturday, are the only goalies in the league to have 30-plus wins against any opponent.