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Loss stings Kaleta, Montador

Patrick Kaleta was injured, Steve Montador was a healthy scratch and both had the same feeling.

For the Buffalo Sabres' surprise absentees from Game Seven against the Philadelphia Flyers, it was tortuous to sit and watch. Kaleta suffered a broken hand in Game Six while Montador's uneven play led coach Lindy Ruff to put Andrej Sekera back in the lineup in his place.

"It was the worst feeling in the world," Kaleta, the Angola native, said Thursday in HSBC Arena. "I've had to battle injuries this year and there's no worse feeling than sitting at home and having to watch your teammates go out and battle, especially in a Game Seven of the Stanley Cup playoffs, and you can't go out and help."

"It was a tough pill to swallow," Montador said. " I was certainly disappointed in not getting the opportunity."

Kaleta suffered a broken bone on the back of his left hand when he blocked a Mike Richards slap shot while killing a penalty midway through the third period Sunday. He sat out five minutes, returned and was on for the last shift of the game, which ended with Ville Leino's game-winning goal.

"It just caught me in the right spot," Kaleta said of the shot. "It hurt but you never know [how severe the injury is]. You just have to wait. I played through it."

Kaleta said he's going to see a hand specialist and surgery is a possibility. He had not yet been ruled out of a potential second-round series against the Washington Capitals.

"If we would have won [Game Seven], we would have taken a different approach than we are right now," Kaleta said. "But that didn't happen so I'll get it taken care of and I'll be fine."

Montador was Buffalo's best defenseman early in the season, posting a plus-16 rating through November that had him atop the NHL leaders. But he slipped to even the rest of the way, was minus-2 against the Flyers and struggled with the puck in his own end before Ruff finally pulled the plug on him.

"There wasn't really any time to get angry," Montador said. "If we had won the game and moved on and the situation was different, maybe my feelings would have evolved and changed in a different way. But at the same time, I would have given everything to be out there."

Montador said he really didn't know what happened to his game.

"It's not an easy question to answer," he said. "Certainly in time, I'll be able to figure that out a little bit more. As time went on, the harder I tried the more struggles that came along the way. That's just a lesson."

Montador is now an unrestricted free agent and the Sabres have yet to approach him or his agent about a contract extension. Early in the year, a two- or three-year deal seemed like a good fit. Now the picture is murky.

"My thought here is I'm a Sabre and I'd love to be able to get something done and stick around for a long time and finish my career here," he said. "I believe any team is better with me in the lineup and I will always stick to that. I know we have good things here. I want to play and be a part of that."

Kaleta, meanwhile, will return to his summer work secure in his spot on the team. He's signed through next season but needs to stay healthier after playing just 51 games. He missed most of March after blocking a shot with his knee in Minnesota.

"Blocking shots got me this year," Kaleta said. "You play on the edge like that, you've got to expect injuries. They're going to come but this year was rough. The season's over. You've got to move forward and I'm excited to start the summer here and make myself a better player."

e-mail: mharrington@buffnews.com

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