Jason Kasdorf gets nervous before every game. So he’s used to dealing with the nerves. The nerves are all a part of hockey for the 23-year-old goaltender.
So of course he will be nervous Friday night when he skates to the net for his first start in the National Hockey League.
But the nerves are good thing.
“I’ll definitely be nervous but I kinda like the feeling of being nervous going into games so I’m feeling pretty good,” Kasdorf said in First Niagara Center Friday morning after taking pregame skate with the Buffalo Sabres.
He will be the starting goaltender for the Sabres final home game of the regular season as they host the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7 p.m.
Kasdorf signed with the Sabres on March 14 after his collegiate career with RPI finished with a loss in the ECAC tournament. Dan Bylsma was already familiar with Kasdorf, who participated in the Sabres’ development camp over the summer.
Kasdorf came to the Sabres with a minor groin injury. He spent his first weeks in Buffalo on rehabilitation before getting some quality practice time in with the club.
What does Bylsma expect of the rookie goalie?
“Stop everything they throw at him?” Bylsma quipped.
“But you know he’s a guy I’ve seen in rookie development camp and think his strength in that time was when he got in the game, when he had game situations and was strong in that situation. He’s come here after his season and worked through getting healthy and had some opportunities in practice to be healthy and work himself for an opportunity to get the chance to play tonight’s game for us. I expect to see the same thing I saw in rookie games.”
What does Kasdorf expect of himself?
“The biggest thing for me is winning,” Kasdorf said. “I just want to win. Whatever the score is, I want to get a win and help the team. Obviously I want to make the saves I need to save and then I know I’ve got a good team in front of me that will help me out with rebounds and that kind of stuff so I’m really excited to get out there.”
Chad Johnson knows about coming from college to the pros. Johnson made his first NHL start with the New York Rangers after a career with Alaska-Fairbanks.
“I think the biggest thing is just to play his game,” Johnson said of the advice he gave Kasdorf on his first NHL start. “Enjoy the moment, enjoy the experience. He’s obviously is getting the opportunity for a reason. It’s something you always remember and he should go out there and play his game, keep it simple and stop the puck. You’ve got to really enjoy these moments.”
Kasdorf, a native of Winnipeg, said around 17 members of his family flew in late Thursday night after learning he would get the start in Friday’s game.
As expected, forwards Evan Rodrigues and Cole Schneider will also make their NHL debuts. They will skate in place of Hudson Fasching and Cal O’Reilly. Fasching will sit for the first time after scoring once in his first six NHL games.
“He’s going to have a good opportunity to get in tomorrow against the Islanders,” Bylsma said. “To step back and take a look at the game even from the stands here tonight, that’s something I think he’s going to learn from and grow from.”
Fellow college signee Casey Nelson will also watch for the first time after playing in six straight. Carlo Colaiacovo will replace Nelson on defense and get time on the power play.
“Casey has played a number of games but in the last couple has fought the puck a little bit and fought the speed a little bit in the game in his execution level,” Bylsma said. “Want to give him a step back with getting Carlo in there.”