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Despite feeling like a ‘bag of garbage,’ Kaleta sticks up for himself

Mar 4, 2013, 2:47 PM EDT

Patrick Kaleta Getty Images

Facing a suspension for his crosscheck from behind on Rangers forward Brad Richards, Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta admitted today that he felt like a “bag of garbage” for putting his team in a bad spot, but he’s not willing to accept the accusation that he can’t be an honest player.

“I have changed my game. I know I have,” said Kaleta (audio), “and I know players have seen that, and even referees have come up and said, ‘Hey, I respect what you’ve done so far, and as long as you keep showing that respect towards us, then we’ll respect you.’ I loved hearing that, knowing that they’ve seen a change in my game. So I know I’ve changed my game.”

When asked if he had a message for Richards, Kaleta paused before saying, “I’m fine for right now.”

In July, the Sabres gave Kaleta a new three-year contract, at which point general manager Darcy Regier praised the 26-year-0ld for the “growth in his game.”

“I think at times he was probably guilty of being reckless, not for personal gain, usually for team gain, taking his hands in front of shots, stuff like that,” said Regier. “He’s learning how to adapt to the rules, how to become more valuable for the team. He’s a very good penalty killer. He’s a fearless player. He’s a tough player to play against, and I think you’ll really see his game grow over the next few years.”

Related: Tortorella calls Kaleta’s check ‘one of the most dangerous hits I’ve ever seen’

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