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Pain steals Fasching's pleasure during first pro season

Hudson Fasching met someone this season. They didn’t get along.

The Sabres prospect doesn’t want to cross paths with Injured Hudson Fasching ever again.

Fasching’s first pro season started memorably but spiraled toward forgettable. The right winger earned a spot on Buffalo’s opening-night roster. A few weeks later, he suffered a groin tear.

It kept him out for more than two months and lingered longer, creating Fasching’s alter ego.

“Coming back from it was definitely the hardest part,” Fasching said in Rochester as the Amerks wrapped up their season. “While you’re injured, you do your rehab and you’re kind of just bored for the most part. You can accept that.

“But when you come back and you’re not like you were before, that’s the hardest part is trying to push forward, trying to get back to where you were.”

Limited in his strength and skating, Fasching couldn’t do the things that made him a pro. The 21-year-old, who impressed at the University of Minnesota and during his seven-game run with the Sabres at the end of 2015-16, struggled with the realization.

“It was a learning season for him,” Amerks coach Dan Lambert said, “mentally for him to handle the injury, to learn to deal with it. ‘How do I come back from it? And, oh my gosh, I’m not like I was when I got hurt. How do I deal with that?’

“Eventually, his game came back.”

Fasching even got another look in Buffalo, playing four games in March, but it was hardly the year he envisioned. He totaled 37 games with the Amerks, recording eight goals and 12 points. He had one assist in 10 games with the Sabres.

“It was my first year pro, and a lot of things went a lot of different ways with injuries, call-ups and all sorts of different stuff,” Fasching said. “It was just trying to learn and grow and become mentally stronger. I learned a lot about my game, how I need to play, things I need to do consistently.

“Obviously, taking care of your body and trying to prevent injuries is going to be a huge thing for me in the offseason. I’m trying to get in the best shape possible so that doesn’t happen again.”

Fasching’s healthy first month gave the Sabres a glimpse of the power forward he could become. The 6-foot-2, 207-pounder played in the Sabres’ opening two games, then went to Rochester for two.

“A man amongst boys,” Lambert said. “Looked like an NHLer, skated like an NHLer, controlled pucks like an NHLer.”

The Sabres recalled Fasching, and in his fourth game he suffered the groin injury. It happened Oct. 30 during his opening shift against Winnipeg. The Sabres gave him a clean bill of health Nov. 9 and sent him back to the Amerks. The injury quickly resurfaced at practice, and Fasching was sidelined until Jan. 11.

The timing was costly. Fasching’s NHL salary is the rookie maximum of $925,000. His salary in the American Hockey League is $70,000, according to CapFriendly.com. Doctors determined the injury happened with Rochester.

No matter where the ailment occurred, it was a pain for Fasching.

“You’ve just got to keep the mental aspect that you’re going forward and getting better, progressing,” he said. “You just try to keep focusing on that.”

The four-game run in Buffalo helped get his mind in the right place. He hopes the offseason, which will feature lower-body training, gets him back to the Sabres’ opening-night lineup.

“I learned that you’ve just got to roll with the punches sometimes,” Fasching said. “I feel like I kind of built off that last run with Buffalo. I was playing pretty well coming down the stretch, and I’m just trying to keep building on that, keep consistency in my game.

“It was definitely a learning experience.”

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