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Kaleta, Mara still share bad blood

Paul Mara thought it was a cheap shot. Patrick Kaleta sees it as a clean hit. Mara thought Kaleta's comments were classless. Kaleta sees his words as part of an intense game.

Odds are good the differences of opinion will continue.

Kaleta and the New York Rangers defenseman have had two memorable run-ins, most recently Wednesday night in the Buffalo Sabres' 3-1 victory. The Sabres' hardest hitter took a run at Mara, and the defenseman immediately dropped his gloves. Kaleta didn't fight back, and Mara picked up a game-deciding penalty when the Sabres scored the winning goal on the power play.

Mara, who had bones broken in his face last season when Kaleta checked him, kept swinging after the game.

"It's two hits on me that he has jumped," Mara said. "I just made a decision that enough is enough from that little guy. If he was a man, he would've dropped the gloves and stood in there.

"I'll always remember that hit. And when he was in the scrum he made a pretty classless move, asking me how my face was."

Kaleta, whose skates left the ice on what resulted in a glancing blow, admitted Thursday he made the verbal jab and defended his words and deeds.

"Whether he says I jumped or not, I know what I did, and it was perfectly clean," Kaleta said. "I'm just going to keep continuing to finish my checks no matter who it is.

"People say stuff all the time. You're in the heat of the game. Stuff is said to me, but you just play it off."


Injured center Jochen Hecht was in HSBC Arena on Thursday while his teammates practiced, and he revealed he broke the middle finger on his left hand Monday when he tried to grab an airborne puck.

"I was trying to catch a puck, and it was spinning, and it just caught the tip of my finger and broke the finger," Hecht said.

Hecht, who underwent surgery to have pins inserted in the finger, is guessing he'll be out two to three weeks. He'll wear a protective splint when he returns.

In other injury news, today marks a week since Tim Connolly last took the ice with the Sabres. The center has a hairline fracture of a vertebrae in his back, and when coach Lindy Ruff announced the ailment, he estimated Connolly could be back in about seven days.

"We're just waiting for some of the pain to subside before he skates again," Ruff said. "I said it'd be about a week, and hopefully we're still around that mark."


Thomas Vanek can set a team record tonight against Vancouver. The left winger has a short-handed goal in each of the past two games, and no Sabres player has ever scored short-handed in three straight.

"We wanted to turn him into a penalty killer. He's become a weapon on the other side of it, too," Ruff said. "We want to keep the focus on, 'Let's make sure we kill the penalties first, and the short-handed goals will come.' But it was great to see him get those two opportunities and put them away."

The last Sabre to score short-handed in back-to-back games was Curtis Brown in February 2003.


Ruff attended Thursday's memorial service for Lucetta Knox, the wife of late Sabres co-founder Northrup Knox. She died Sunday in her East Aurora home at age 80.

"When I was brought in, I actually interviewed for the general manager job my first time in, and it was out at the farm with Norty and Cetta," Ruff said. "Fond memories from the playing days and some from the early coaching years."


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