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World Cup

Erik Karlsson ready to experience World Cup

Team Sweden defenseman prepared for rigors of tournament, regular season

by Chris Stevenson / Correspondent

OTTAWA -- It's with a small bit of regret that Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson is trading in his golf clubs for his hockey stick at this point in August.

Karlsson, who will play for Team Sweden at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, skated with his Senators teammates and other pros during an informal workout Tuesday, his final preparations for Team Sweden's training camp.

Karlsson will leave for Sweden on Saturday. He has been training hard and said he's physically ready for the rigors of top-flight international play. But is he mentally ready to make the transition from the links to the rinks?

"Absolutely," he said. "I'm super excited. It's going to be fun. We were in Sweden a couple of weeks ago and met with all the guys and had a few meetings there. It was nice seeing everybody again. You can't ever forget that feeling, how it feels to play for your national team. It's one of the best feelings there is."

Video: Team Sweden on the WCH 2016

Karlsson, 26, won a silver medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. He'll be a key figure on Team Sweden's defense, which includes Oliver Ekman-Larsson (Arizona Coyotes), Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay Lightning), Niklas Hjalmarsson (Chicago Blackhawks), Niklas Kronwall (Detroit Red Wings) and Anton Stralman (Lightning).

The eight-team tournament takes place at Air Canada Centre in Toronto from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1.

"Everybody in the regulation round is really good," Karlsson said. "I don't think there is a certain team [to beat]. If you look at the rosters, there's certain teams that are better looking on paper, maybe, from what every individual player has done throughout their career, but every team has a chance to win.

"It's a tournament format. A lot of things happen. It's not a playoff series. It's not a regular-season game. It's very different to what we're used to. Anything can happen. We can have a bad day and it can end quick."

Karlsson adjusted his usual offseason workout schedule to accommodate the World Cup, getting on the ice to skate with teammates and other professionals earlier than normal.

"We're going to play our first competitive game in early September here and put some more effort on being on the ice and trying to get the legs going out there," he said. "Unfortunately it's been taking some time from the gym, but hopefully it will be for the better. It's definitely changed things up. It's always nice when you change sometimes. It's been a good summer. It feels good right now."

When asked if he were in the best shape of his career, Karlsson said: "I think my early years I was in much better shape when I was 21, 22, and I could do lot more off the ice without worrying about other things. Right now, I feel good.

"I think the time I have put in this summer has been in the right way. I've done what I needed to do to get my body ready to play another 82 games and then some, and do it at the highest possible level that I can.

Video: OTT@MIN: Karlsson buries puck past Dubnyk

"As of right now, I feel great. It's a long year. There's going to be a lot of battles going through that year, but I've set myself up really good, and I feel like I'm really prepared going into this season and facing any challenges they might throw against us."

Karlsson likes the addition of Team Europe (comprised of players from countries excluding Sweden, Finland, Czech Republic and Russia) and Team North America (U.S. and Canadian players age 23 and under as of Oct. 1).

"That's new for everyone and especially for those players," he said. "It's good for them. If you're from a nation that doesn't get to play any big tournaments, it's fun to be a part of something like this, even if you're not playing for your own country.

"Same for the younger guys that are on Team North America. To play on Team Canada is something that's probably one of the hardest things to do in the hockey world and good for them, as well, to get experience and be a part of this. It's going to make them grow as individuals and as players, and that's going to make the whole league better."

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