CHICAGO — The long arm of NHL law corraled Patrick Kaleta again late Friday night.
The Buffalo Sabres winger has been suspended pending a hearing from the league for a hit to the head of Columbus defenseman Jack Johnson during Thursday’s game in First Niagara Center.
Kaleta was initially scheduled to have a hearing with the league Friday afternoon but it has been pushed back to an in-person meeting Tuesday while the Sabres are in New York to face the Islanders. Kaleta will not play until his case is heard by Brendan Shanahan, the NHL’s vice president for player safety, and is thus out for tonight’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks in United Center and Monday’s home game against Minnesota.
An in-person hearing means Kaleta is likely looking at a ban of at least five games. This is his fourth suspension since 2009.
The hit, which came less than four minutes into Buffalo’s 4-1 loss to the Blue Jackets, went relatively unnoticed during the game. Kaleta got a piece of Johnson near the boards in the Buffalo end, and was immediately engaged in a fight by Columbus forward Jared Boll. Johnson was uninjured and played a team-high 23 minutes, 13 seconds in the game.
Oddly enough, Kaleta was injured in the fight and missed several shifts while he was tended to in the dressing room. He returned wearing a full face shield and coach Ron Rolston said Friday that Kaleta was having dental work addressed.
The injuries were not serious and Rolston said that Kaleta would have been available tonight had there not been a ruling from the league.
“The league is going to take care of that,” Rolston said following practice. “It’s a hit and they’re concerned with it so they’ll take a look at it and we’ll go from there. He’ll have a hearing and we’ll see what comes from it.”
The penalty is expected to be a stiff one because Kaleta is a repeat offender. He was, of course, suspended for five games in March for his highly publicized boarding infraction against Brad Richards of the New York Rangers but was also suspended four games in 2011 for a head-butt and two games in 2009 for a high stick. Both of those incidents came in games against Philadelphia.
The Blue Jackets, naturally, were not amused by Kaleta’s antics.
“I thought it was blatant,” Johnson told the Columbus Dispatch after practice Friday, adding that he had Kaleta lined up for a hit late in the third period. “I was looking for him,” Johnson said. “Absolutely. I was going to hit him whether he had the puck or not, to be honest with you. If he doesn’t show any respect for us, we’re not going to show any respect for him. It’s a two-way street.”
Kaleta and center Cody Hodgson were the only players to sit out practice Friday at the FNC before the team boarded its flight here. Hodgson sat out his second straight practice for maintenance of an undisclosed ailment but played a regular shift Thursday and is expected to be fine for tonight
Defenseman Henrik Tallinder (upper body) is progressing but won’t play tonight. The target for his return is Monday against Minnesota.
Dan Dunleavy will have the play-by-play call tonight on MSG in place of Rick Jeanneret. It will be the first television appearance of the season for Dunleavy, who signed in September to work a growing number of games for three seasons before Jeanneret retires in 2016.
It will actually be Dunleavy’s third regular-season Sabres broadcast, as he was a fill-in for Jeanneret during a 2010 game in Anaheim and a contest in 2011 in Ottawa. Analyst Rob Ray and intermission host Brian Duff will be in their usual roles on tonight’s telecast.