A new reality has arrived for the Ottawa Senators.
Erik Karlsson, the Norris Trophy winner a season ago and the engine of the Senators' up-tempo attack, is going to miss 3-4 months after having surgery to repair a lacerated Achilles tendon, general manager Bryan Murray told reporters Thursday.
"He had surgery this morning. [It was] a 70-percent cut of the Achilles tendon," Murray said. "Time frame is three to four months. The surgery, from all of our information, went well. It was a clean cut. Recovery is expected to be 100 percent, but it does mean that his year is finished at this time."
Karlsson was injured Wednesday when the skate of Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke cut the back of his leg during a check along the boards near the end of the second period. Cooke was not penalized on the play and the NHL Department of Player Safety determined there would be no supplemental discipline for Cooke.
Karlsson joins another talented young Senators defenseman, Jared Cowen, with season-ending injuries. Top center Jason Spezza also is out after back surgery and hopes to play again during the 2012-13 season, but it won't be for some time.
In total, eight players in the organization are on the injured list, leaving one of the surprise teams from the 2011-12 season reeling while trying to improve on a first-round Stanley Cup Playoff exit.
Murray made it clear Thursday he's not waiving a white flag.
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe [we can make the playoffs]," Murray said. "I believe we've got to work hard and hope that we get some guys back in the near future that can contribute. We have to make some calls.
"These guys are going to come back. Karlsson is going to come back. Cowen is going to come back. Eventually, we're going to have our core together again, but let's see how far we can go here and give people a reason to cheer for the Ottawa Senators."
Murray said he's been engaging in trade discussions with other general managers since Spezza went out of the lineup. He said he doesn't want to trade a first-round pick or a top prospect for a short-term solution, but will continue to reach out and expects other "sympathetic" managers to call him.
"We don't replace Erik Karlsson. We don't have anybody in that category of player. We hope that other people eat up his minutes and defensively we just don't allow any goals. That's the way we're going to have to do it."
-- Ottawa GM Bryan Murray
In the meantime, some of Ottawa's young players will have a chance to fill in for the injured stars. Mika Zibanejad, Jakob Silfverberg and Stephane de Costa already are playing key roles with the injuries up front, and Patrick Wiercioch could see more playing time with Karlsson out.
"We don't replace Erik Karlsson," Murray said. "We don't have anybody in that category of player. We hope that other people eat up his minutes and defensively we just don't allow any goals. That's the way we're going to have to do it. [Goalie] Craig Anderson is going to have to be great and our defensemen have to be great and hopefully by committee we have to find a way to score some goals.
"We've got a few kids we'll give a chance to out of necessity more than anything. I think we've got a core here and I know we've got a good coaching staff and they'll put up a game plan every night that gives us a chance to be competitive."
A reporter asked for Murray's response to the idea of trading Anderson, who leads the League with a .949 save percentage and is second in goals-against average at 1.58, to open playing time for the organization's two goaltending prospects (Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner), and to signal a look to next season when the core of the team returns intact.
Murray called Anderson a "cornerstone to build with," and shot down such a direction.
Murray also said Milan Michalek, the team's leading goal scorer in 2011-12, twisted his knee during warm-ups Wednesday and the hope is he'll only miss a game or two. Peter Regin is the injured player who could be back the soonest, perhaps as soon as this weekend.
The Senators are sixth in the Eastern Conference, and Murray isn't ready to concede their place in top eight despite the adversity.
"We'll recover from this," he said. "We may not be as talented, but we've got a strong character group and we have to hope that they'll help carry us through."