NEW YORK -- As flattered and happy as Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson is to be a finalist for the Norris Trophy, he said it will have no bearing on how he performs in Game 7 Thursday against the Rangers.
"It's totally based on the (regular) season and has nothing to do with playoffs," Karlsson said. "(Game 7) is one of the most important games I've ever played, and hopefully I can play my best hockey today."
Some of Karlsson's teammates, however, believe getting the word only hours before the biggest game of his life could be a confidence builder for Karlsson, who has struggled against the Rangers with only one point in six games. He had 78 points in the regular season, clearing all other defenseman by at least 25 points.
"He's had a great season; he deserves to win the Norris," Ottawa forward Jason Spezza said. "To get nominated on the day of a real important game can be exciting for a guy. I don't think it'll be a distraction. I think it'll give him a little jump."
Ottawa coach Paul MacLean admitted Thursday that he was as surprised as anybody at how Karlsson developed this season. The still 21-year-old Swedish blueliner had 75 points in his first 135 NHL games from 2009-11.
"I just knew that he could skate real good," MacLean said. "I knew if we could get him to be active and to skate he could be a very good player, but I don't know if we felt at that time he'd be good enough to be a Norris candidate. He's certainly played well enough this season to be a legitimate candidate."
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