With news of the Sabres' involvement at the 2019 NHL Global Series breaking at 10 a.m. in Sweden - and 5 a.m. in Buffalo - Rasmus Dahlin woke up on Thursday to a flurry of text messages from family and friends, thrilled about the opportunity to see the rookie defenseman play an NHL game in person.
"They were so happy and excited for the game," Dahlin said. "A lot of my friends, they can't see NHL hockey live because it's over here and it's expensive to fly and stuff like that. I'm super happy for that they can see the game in Sweden."
Dahlin and the Sabres will play a pair of regular-season games against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Ericsson Globe in Stockholm, Sweden on Nov. 8 and 9. The Lightning boast another Swedish defensive talent in reigning Norris Trophy winner Victor Hedman.
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Of course, Dahlin is only one of four Swedish players on Buffalo's current roster, a group that also includes Johan Larsson, Alexander Nylander and Linus Ullmark. That list could grow next season, with young players like Rasmus Asplund, Victor Olofsson and Lawrence Pilut all expected to compete for NHL roster spots in the fall.
"Hopefully they can make the team next year," Dahlin said. "As many Swedes as possible is more fun."
Ullmark said he too woke up to texts from family and friends. His hometown of Lugnvik is a five-hour drive from Stockholm, which he said seemed far in Sweden but close now that he's made a home in Buffalo.
Video: What Are The Odds?: Linus Ullmark
The goaltender said it would be meaningful to start a game in front of the Swedish fans, an experience he hopes to share with as many teammates as possible.
"It would mean a lot to me, yeah," he said. "Obviously, because you're on your home turf and you're playing in front of your fans and family that might not be able to come over here."
Ullmark knows the atmosphere in around pro hockey in Sweden well from his time with MODO of Swedish Hockey League. While he likely won't moonwalk on the ice after the game, he said he's expecting a raucous crowd.
"I think it's great, especially with the team the Sabres are going to play against, Tampa," he said. "There are a lot of fans back home that root for Tampa, obviously because of Victor Hedman, but because of all their stars. I think it's going to be a big party back home."
The upcoming Global Series will mark the NHL's 12th and 13th games played in Sweden. Edmonton and New Jersey met in Gothenburg back in October, while Ottawa and Colorado played a pair of games in Stockholm last season.
Even so, Dahlin said the chances to watch the NHL in Sweden are few and far between, making next season all the more special.
"Everyone gets a chance to watch an NHL game live," he said. "It's amazing."
The Sabres shuffled their forward lines, splitting the top-line trio of Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart in favor of balance up front. That included Nylander skating on a line with Eichel and Conor Sheary, an opportunity for the 21-year-old winger.
Nylander said he's looking forward to playing alongside Eichel, who leads the Sabres with 73 points this season.
"I think it's probably easier because you know what he's going to do, you know he can make plays and you know he can shoot the puck, too," he said. "You've just got to be aware all the time on the ice whenever he has the puck, because it can be right on your tape next. It's going to be really fun. I'm looking forward to it."
Nylander tallied two assists against St. Louis on Sunday, then scored his first NHL goal of the season against Toronto on Wednesday.
"It's great for me to play with a pair like that," Nylander said. "I'm still playing with Sheary, which is going to be really good for us. I've just got to keep moving my feet every game here and play simple, getting pucks to the net."
Here's how the Sabres lined up, with Zach Bogosian and Matt Hunwick absent on defense.
43 Conor Sheary - 9 Jack Eichel - 92 Alexander Nylander
53 Jeff Skinner - 71 Evan Rodrigues - 29 Jason Pominville
17 Vladimir Sobotka - 37 Casey Mittelstadt - 23 Sam Reinhart
28 Zemgus Girgensons - 22 Johan Larsson - 21 Kyle Okposo
Extra Forwards: 20 Scott Wilson, 72 Tage Thompson
Defense: 6 Marco Scandella, 8 Casey Nelson, 26 Rasmus Dahlin, 55 Rasmus Ristolainen, 62 Brandon Montour
40 Carter Hutton
35 Linus Ullmark