Casey Nelson hasn't played an NHL game since Dec. 4. ©2019, Hickling Images

Sabres’ Casey Nelson quietly waiting for opportunity to play

BUFFALO – Three months ago today, Casey Nelson suffered an upper-body injury in the Sabres’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The defenseman hasn’t played an NHL game since then.

Nelson, who dressed for 22 of the Sabres’ first 29 contests, is healthy again. The Sabres just haven’t used him. He began practicing again in late January and completed a five-game AHL conditioning assignment with the Rochester Americans on Feb. 17.

For the last eight games, Nelson has sat out as a healthy scratch.

“I’m just waiting for an opportunity,” Nelson said this morning inside KeyBank Center.

Update: Nelson will return tonight. Zach Bogosian is day-to-day with a lower-body injury, according to the team.

That opportunity could materialize tonight. Sabres coach Phil Housley wouldn’t rule Nelson out against the Edmonton Oilers, meaning a defenseman could be nursing an injury.

Nelson, who skated with forward Vladimir Sobotka this morning, left the ice earlier than a scratch would.

Nelson moved up the depth chart when the Sabres traded defenseman Nathan Beaulieu last week. With Jake McCabe sidelined five to six weeks with an upper-body injury, Nelson now ranks seventh.

“Just a mental battle, which I’m in a good state of mind, so it’s not too hard when you got good teammates and good people around you,” Nelson said of sitting out. “It’s obviously tough not playing, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

The Sabres have been losing. They went 12-6-4 with Nelson in the lineup earlier this season.

Don’t they need to try something different? So why hasn’t Nelson, a right-handed shot, played?

“It’s more the lefty-righty thing for me,” Housley said. “We’ve got three righties and a lot of them haven’t played on the left side.”

Housley utilized newcomer Brandon Montour, a righty, on the left side in Saturday’s 5-2 loss in Toronto.

Nelson said he has played on the left “here and there” and “wouldn’t be opposed to trying it.”

“It can frustrating, but I just really like his attitude,” Housley said. “Every day he comes to the rink, he works hard, he approaches practices the right way. It’s good to see. He’s got to be ready for his opportunity.”

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