“I was supposed to figure out what I was going to do if I didn’t get the redshirt,” he said. “(Playing) was a no-brainer if I could handle it physically. I wanted to try to play with the guys again and help lead this team again. …
“Now the thing is to get through this year. After that, I have no idea what’s in store.”
A year ago, Nelson had his best college season, scoring 14 points. He was a key member of the Mavericks’ power play, scoring four of his five goals with the man advantage.
Hastings said Nelson’s health and progress will be monitored closely. But when he’s in the lineup, Nelson will be back in those important roles.
"Power play, penalty kill, a top-four D," Hastings said. "He'll allow us to distribute our minutes throughout the group of six that plays on a given night.
“He was elected one of our captains by his teammates. It's hard being a leader when you're not on the ice everyday. ... And we don't have many seniors."
Nelson’s return also gives him a chance to play with his brother, Casey, a freshman defenseman for the Mavericks. Casey Nelson has played in 14 of MSU’s 18 games, including the first three when Josh was healthy.
“I’ve got 25 other brothers here, too,” Josh Nelson said. “But to play another half-season (with Casey) in front of family and friends is important.”
Nelson isn't the only player who could return to the lineup this weekend.
Freshman forward Michael Huntebrinker has been cleared to play after suffering a broken wrist early in the season. He has played in just two games. Also, sophomore defenseman Blake Thompson is eligible after transferring from Minnesota a year ago.
"We've finally got some numbers," Hastings said.