BUFFALO – The night after Nikita Zadorov drilled Sabres captain Jack Eichel high after the whistle, Casey Nelson said he couldn’t sleep.
The defenseman said he was looking through three players Saturday afternoon in Colorado and didn’t see Zadorov hit Eichel into the boards and rip off his helmet.
That’s why Nelson glided up to Zadorov and never went after the Avalanche defenseman.
If Nelson had seen what happened to Eichel, he would’ve offered a stronger response.
“I feel totally different after I saw the hit, because I didn’t know he got hit in the head and I don’t have the seven camera angles to see that he actually got hit in the head,” said Nelson, who will return tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins after sitting out one game. “I was the only one directly behind him, so I didn’t actually see he got hit in the head. That’s all I’m going to say there.”
Sabres coach Phil Housley said earlier this week “we had a discussion” with Nelson, who was scratched for Tuesday’s 2-0 loss to the Dallas Stars.
“It was addressed with him,” Housley said this morning inside KeyBank Center. “The talk was more about his play. We’ve moved beyond that right now.”
Well, Nelson hasn’t quite moved beyond it yet. He said his tepid reaction hasn’t stopped bothering him.
“I didn’t sleep after I saw the video,” Nelson said. “That’s pretty much all I’ve thought about the past number of days. I mean, there’s not a lot I can do about it other than I can tell you my response wouldn’t have been the same if I knew that I got hit in the head.”
Nelson will replace Zach Bogosian, who is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
In other lineup news, Housley said goalie Carter Hutton will start tonight. Hutton is 3-0-0 with a 1.36 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage in five career games against the Penguins.
Housley also said winger Zemgus Girgensons will be a healthy scratch again.
The Sabres, who have lost five straight games (0-4-1), have played the surging Penguins tough this season, roaring back twice to beat them in overtime.
The Penguins have are 6-1-2 in their last nine outings. The Sabres haven’t swept the season series from them since 2005-06.
The Sabres haven’t won since defeating the Penguins here 4-3 on March 1.
That come-from-behind victory felt like one of their early-season triumphs.
“It was a great game for our guys, because they found that they can still do that and there’s a belief there,” Housley said.