Hudson Fasching has been busy doing homework. ©2016, Dan Hickling, Olean Times Herald

Sabres rookies Hudson Fasching, Casey Nelson acclimating to NHL life

BUFFALO – On Wednesday night, hours before Sabres rookie Hudson Fasching had to be at the First Niagara Center to prepare for his fourth NHL game, he was in his hotel room taking a quiz.

Fasching, 20, has kept working toward his entrepreneurial management degree since leaving the University of Minnesota last week following his junior season. He’s taking classes online and is on track to graduate in May.

Three nights earlier, Fasching wrote a one-page paper – it was a case study on Zip Car to examine start-up companies – in his Detroit hotel room for his new business feasibility class.

“It’s kind of one thing after another,” Fasching said Thursday prior to the Sabres’ 4-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs. “Doing stuff on the road’s never fun. But you get it done. It’s not too stressful.”

Make no mistake, the affable Fasching’s enjoying his new life. Going through everything with defenseman Casey Nelson, who left Minnesota State University last week, has made the experience easier for the winger. The rookies are neighbors in the hotel and already good friends.

“It’s been awesome,” said Nelson, 23. “We’ve kind of leaned on each other at times, hanging out a lot. It’s definitely nice to have someone in the same position going through it with you.”

The NHL, of course, has wowed both youngsters. Nelson was playing soccer underneath the stands with some teammates Monday before the Sabres’ 3-2 loss inside Joe Louis Arena when they were told to move to the side because Gordie Howe, one most iconic figures in hockey history, was coming through.

“I think everyone’s eyes kind of opened a little wider than they were,” said Nelson, who has also kept taking classes. “It was definitely an unbelievable experience.”

To Fasching, “the quality of everything” is incredible. He said even opening the refrigerator at the rink and seeing water impressed him.

“It’s just the little things,” he said. “Just the overall quality. Just the way you’re treated, it’s second to none. It’s just spectacular.”

Fasching scored a nifty goal just minutes into his debut Saturday afternoon, which immediately relaxed him.

“It almost relaxed me too much to a point to where I was like, ‘OK, I’m comfortable now,’” he said. “I still think I need to focus on making sure I move my feet. I was talking to coaches today, looking through some video. …

“I don’t want to get too relaxed, too comfortable. I want to make sure I still have a lot of energy, playing with pace.”

Fasching played on the right wing Thursday beside Ryan O’Reilly, who switched back to center after a game on the wing, and Zemgus Girgensons.

If the Sabres were still in the hunt for the postseason, then perhaps goalie Robin Lehner would’ve battled through his ankle injury and kept playing, coach Dan Bylsma said.

“I can’t say that for sure,” Bylsma said. “It might’ve been the case if we were in a different spot in the standings right now and fighting for a playoff spot.”

Instead, Lehner underwent season-ending surgery earlier this week. The Swede, 24, suffered a high right ankle sprain opening night and missed three months before returning for a strong 20-game run. He jammed his tender ankle into the post twice in a week earlier this month, ending his season.

Bylsma said Lehner’s surgery was related to “instability,” not a break or any ligament damage.

Following four weeks off, Bylsma said Lehner can start rehabbing. He can get back to his normal summer routine at six weeks.

While Lehner looked impressive in limited action – he went 5-9-5 with a 2.47 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage – his season is still a huge disappointment.

The Sabres traded a first-round pick to Ottawa for him to be their 60-game starter. After getting injured Oct. 8, he didn’t play again until Jan. 15. He last played March 16.

“Once he rehabbed, once he got back to playing … especially in that 10-game segment (in February and early March), he showed us quite a bit, what kind of goalie he can be,” Bylsma said.

Still, Lehner, who missed the final three months of 2014-15 because of a concussion, will have played 21 NHL games in 20 months at the start of next season.

In other news, Bylsma said winger Evander Kane’s season is over. Kane suffered an upper-body injury Monday and needs two to three weeks of recovery. Kane finished with 20 goals and 35 points in 65 games in his first season with the Sabres.

Bylsma also said winger Tyler Ennis, out with a concussion since Dec. 30, could still play this season. Four games are left. Ennis still hasn’t started practicing but has been skating.

“Still have hope to see the possibility of getting him in practices,” Bylsma said.

Ennis can’t be rushed.

“He’s done some extensive workouts for about seven days and he’s improving,” Bylsma said. “There is a continued sign that he’s getting better.”

Bylsma said he talked to Ennis on Wednesday and the former 20-goal scorer is “excited about where he’s at.”

The Leafs recalled four players, including former Sabres defenseman T.J. Brennan, and sent four players down Thursday morning. Brennan has enjoyed a monster AHL season, scoring 24 goals and 67 points in 67 games with the Toronto Marlies.

Brennan, 26, played 21 games with the Sabres. Thursday was his 48th NHL appearance.

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