Last week, Casey Nelson was playing for Minnesota State. Saturday afternoon, he makes his NHL debut after singing as a free agent with the Buffalo Sabres earlier this week.
That was the definition of whirlwind for the defenseman.
"I knew it was possible but I guess it didn't really hit me until yesterday when coach let me know that I was in," Nelson said in First Niagara Center as the Sabres prepared to host the Winnipeg Jets at 1 p.m. It was "a lot faster than I thought it would go, that's for sure."
Nelson, who will be paired with Mark Pysyk, said his new teammates were helping to keep him calm. He even slept all right last night that is "until I woke up this morning," he said. "Then the sweat started hitting me."
Nelson makes his NHL debut along with Hudson Fasching, the former Minnesota Golden Gopher who also signed with the Sabres this week. Fasching will play with David Legwand and Matt Moulson.
Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma is eager to see how the two fare in their NHL debut, but cautioned them against being driven to be perfect in the game. After all, no one is perfect in a game. Not even the best players in the NHL.
"This morning when they came in for breakfast I said to them, just so you know, you’re going to make a mistake in the game tonight," Bylsma said. "We’re all going to make them. Our best player is going to make 10 mistakes in the game. Just go out and play your game. Hopefully they let 'er loose a little bit and just show what they can."
Returning to First Niagara Center for the first time as a visitor is Drew Stafford. The forward, who was drafted by the Sabres in 2004 and played parts of nine seasons for the team, ranks second on the Jets with 20 goals. He was traded to the Jets last season along with Tyler Myers and Joel Armia for Evander Kane and Zach Bogosian.
"I’m for sure excited. I have a lot of great memories here," Stafford said on being back in Buffalo. "I was here for a long time. My son was born here. I’ve got a lot of respect for the fans here. Over the years I’ve had some good times and obviously some bad times, too, but it’s good to be back and see a lot of familiar faces but at the same time, we want to win the game so it’s business as usual."