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Matt Cooke believes he can save Patrick Kaleta, who appeals 10-game ban

Greg Wyshynski
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When Patrick Kaleta was hit with a 10-game suspension by the NHL for his head-shot on Jack Johnson, we figured he was going to appeal it through the NHLPA, because $152,439 is $152,439 and because a 5-game suspension last season pissed his coach off so royally that he earned an additional game in the press box for it.

Kaleta won’t play for the Sabres during the appeal, as his suspension began on Tuesday night.

If this thing goes to a Neutral Discipline Arbitrator – the actual term in the CBA and what sounds like an amazing Wilco album – it’s an interesting case.

Johnson wasn’t injured on the play, and Kaleta’s suspension is unlike every other massive one handed out by the Department of Player Safety. Raffi Torres was given 21 games for putting Marian Hossa on a stretcher. Every other suspension of 10 or more games involved the inclusion of preseason games to pad the suspensions or were automatic ones, like David Clarkson leaving the bench to fight John Scott.

That said, the CBA clearly states that “players who repeatedly violate League Playing Rules will be more severely punished for each new violation.”

And Kaleta has been hit with supplemental discipline six times in four seasons.

In giving him 10 games, the NHL is trying to help change his behavior. You know who else would like to?

Matt Cooke.

Seriously.

Matt Cooke.

Cooke told Pierre LeBrun he introduced himself to Kaleta and offered his help if the Sabres forward wanted someone to speak to about injuring a player and facing the repercussions.

As Cooke told Pierre LeBrun of ESPN:

"During my suspension, with either (Dan) Bylsma or (Tony) Granato, I probably watched about 30 or 40 hours of video; watching players that play a physical style," Cooke recalled.

"The hours of video work I did seriously helped me," he added. "The work that I put in has helped me not only take the risky plays out but also become a more effective player. I’ve got a way more active stick on the forecheck, and I’m more aware of my surroundings, which has helped me offensively."

"Right now, I err on the side of caution. I still watch video to re-assure that there are good times to go out and be physical. ...”

So you see, Patrick Kaleta, there is another path you can take. You can become a reviled player that everyone still sees as an injurious thug and gets called as such by the likes of Mike Milbury, despite ample evidence that he’s changed his ways. There is a future!

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