WASHINGTON -- Erik Burgdoerfer knew there was an injury crisis brewing on the Buffalo Sabres' blueline. But six days shy of his 28th birthday and after playing 480 regular season and playoff games in the minor leagues, he knew better than to pay attention. He was simply focused on his job at Rochester, where ice time was increasing with all the callups to Buffalo.
Then the call came Sunday from Amerks coach Dan Lambert after Taylor Fedun became Buffalo's latest injury casualty on Saturday. After stops in Bakersfield, Oklahoma City, South Carolina, Hershey and Rochester, Burgdoerfer was an NHL defenseman.
"I try not to look at all that injury stuff because it plays with your head," Burgdoerfer said prior to making his NHL debut Monday in Verizon Center against the Washington Capitals. "I focus on yourself and what you can control. I was a little bit blindsided by the call. Numbers did dictate that maybe at a certain point maybe it would be my turn, but it was still a pleasant surprise."
Burgdoerfer said the call from Lambert "was a little emotional but it was great." He played in all but one of the Sabres' preseason games, giving coach Dan Bylsma more than enough confidence to call on him in the wake of Buffalo's deluge of injuries.
"It certainly has been a long time coming so I was thrilled to get the call," Burgdoerfer said. "There were definitely certain points in my career I thought this would never happen. You've just got to believe in yourself, work hard and I couldn't be happier with the result."
Burgdoerfer played with Justin Falk on Buffalo's third defense pair. The Sabres had Rasmus Ristolainen with Jake McCabe as their top duo while Cody Franson stayed with junior callup Brendan Guhle after that pair was joined Saturday against Boston for Guhle's NHL debut.
"I told him it's your first NHL game but you've played with all these guys before and you should be comfortable with how we play," Bylsma said of Burgdoerfer. "There's a little more rapport and camaraderie between them now because they played in Rochester.
"A lot of what we've seen with Taylor Fedun I would say about Erik. He's a guy that proved he can play at the NHL level in preseason. We played with very similar lineups to what we've played with in the season and he was a good, steady defender. He competed hard and was able to do it against NHL players."
Burgdoerfer's preseason in Buffalo was a key to getting to this point but he said his run to the Calder Cup finals in June with Washington's Hershey affiliate set the stage for this year. The Bears were swept in the series by Lake Erie.
"That was huge," he said. "Any time you can be on a team that's winning, even though we came up a little short in the Calder Cup final, any one on a team like that gets a boost for the next season. Whether it's with the same team or moving on. There's nothing like winning to propel people's careers."
Burgdoerfer said he expected several family members to make the drive here, either from the family home on Long Island or perhaps even his Buffalo connections. His mother, Jane, is a Western New York native and he has aunts, uncles and cousins in Amherst, Orchard Park and Clarence.
"The Sabres gave me an excellent opportunity in preseason to show I can play at this level and thankfully I ran with it," he said. "Any team would be special to play against but it's close enough to home that my family is able to come ,so that will really make it special."
Burgdoerfer played 10:07 in the game, becoming the 11th defenseman to appear with the Sabres this season and the fourth recall. The Sabres used just one recall on defense all of last season, and that was a one-game stint by the now-departed Chad Ruhwedel.
Burgdoerfer's stay with the Sabres might be short. Bylsma said Dmitry Kulikov isn't likely to play Tuesday against Edmonton but is a possibility for the rematch with the Capitals at home on Friday. The coach also said Fedun had rib X-rays that were negative and is day-to-day with a shoulder injury.
Bylsma said the Sabres would use McCabe in Fedun's spot on their second power play, and could conceivably give Guhle a chance in that slot at some point as well.
Three Sabres prospects and one Western New York native were named Monday to training camp rosters for the World Junior Championships, which open Dec. 26 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Buffalo's top two picks in the 2016 draft, winger Alex Nylander and center Rasmus Asplund, were both selected by Team Sweden for a return trip to the tournament. Named on defense by Team USA were Boston College defenseman Casey Fitzgerald, the second of Buffalo's third-round picks, and Youngstown native Joe Cecconi, a Dallas draft pick who plays for the University of Michigan.
Team USA's pre-tournament camp will be Dec. 16-20 in HarborCenter. The head coach is Bob Motzko of St. Cloud State and one of his assistants is Boston College's Greg Brown, a 1987 Sabres draft choice. He's the uncle of BC sophomore Christopher Brown, a sixth-round pick of the Sabres in 2014. Motzko coaches top Sabres defense prospect Will Borgen, who played with Team USA last year but will turn 20 this month and is thus ineligible for the tournament.