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Karlsson expects to be in Sharks lineup to start playoffs

Defenseman recovering from groin injury that has sidelined him since Feb. 26

by Kevin Woodley / Correspondent

VANCOUVER -- Erik Karlsson will be ready for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, even if the San Jose Sharks defenseman doesn't know whether he will get back into a game before they start.

Karlsson missed his 16th consecutive game with a groin injury when the Sharks played the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena on Tuesday. He skated with teammates in the morning and said he would have played if it was a playoff game.

"I said a month ago I was going to be ready for the playoffs and that's still the case," Karlsson said.

Karlsson, a two-time winner of the Norris Trophy voted as the best defenseman in the NHL, missed nine games from Jan. 19 to Feb. 14 with a groin injury. He returned Feb. 16 and played four games in a row before missing a game Feb. 24 against the Detroit Red Wings. He played against the Boston Bruins on Feb. 26 but left after the second period and hasn't played since.

Karlsson said Tuesday the groin injury that kept him out those first nine games was similar to the one he is recovering from. He said he feels healthier coming back this time and is comfortable that he won't reinjure it.

Karlsson said the injury won't be on his mind when he does return.

"That's gone with and that's not going to be an issue so for the head space there, it feels good," he said. "This time of the year I don't think it really matters. I have played through enough to know that as long as it's possible I am going to go and you are going to deal with whatever you have to deal with after the year, and this is the case again. I'm not worried about reinjuring it or getting another injury; that's not the way I approach the game, especially this time of year."

Karlsson is ninth on the Sharks with 45 points (three goals, 42 assists) in 52 games this season. He has missed 27 games because of the groin injuries and a two-game suspension.

San Jose coach Pete DeBoer said he'd like to get Karlsson into the lineup for the final two regular-season games, but with the Sharks locked into second place in the Pacific Division and home-ice advantage for the Western Conference First Round against the Vegas Golden Knights, the priority is the playoffs.

San Jose finishes the regular season at the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday and at home against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

"I'd like to (get Karlsson in) but we're not going to do it at the expense of rushing him, so we'll see," DeBoer said. "He'll be ready for the playoffs."

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