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Karlsson earned break after Senators' frenetic season

by Arpon Basu

TORONTO -- Erik Karlsson would like to set the record straight.

Not that he really needs to, considering everything the Ottawa Senators defenseman has accomplished over his career, but Karlsson wants to make clear he does indeed work out over the summer months.

Karlsson said at the end of August that he did his conditioning on the ice and doesn't do much training over the summer, if any. It was a surprising comment in the NHL today, when players are often working hard most of the offseason to maintain their conditioning.

When asked about his summer of physical inactivity during the NHL Player Media Tour earlier this month in Toronto, Karlsson quickly stepped in to make a correction.

"Well, that's a little bit exaggerated," Karlsson said. "I work out frequently throughout the summer. But I've been going hard now for five, six, seven summers in a row, and this summer I just felt like I was worn down a lot and decided to take a little more time off than I normally do."

That's understandable considering the load Karlsson has carried over the past two years. He has not missed a game since returning from a lacerated Achilles tendon on April 25, 2013, a run of 167 consecutive regular-season games and 16 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs while averaging north of 27 minutes of ice time.

Over the past two seasons Karlsson has been by far the most productive defenseman in the League; His 140 points over that span are 27 more than his closest competitor, P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens.

So the last thing Karlsson should ever need to do is defend his offseason training regimen, but he did anyway.

"Everybody's different," he said. "I feel like I don't have to do a whole lot to keep in shape, especially in the summer. I don't have to be stronger. I don't have to bench press this or lift this. I'm as strong as I have to be. For me, it's more about maintaining it and making sure that everything is working properly to prevent injuries.

"Some guys are naturally heavier. Well then maybe you have to do cardio so you don't gain those extra 15 pounds. But for me, I don't have to do that. I have that, luckily enough, naturally. So why do I have to do that? It's more about trying to keep the weight on, eating well and regrouping to make sure I can play a lot of minutes for eight months."

Instead of hitting the gym, Karlsson hit the road.

While based in Ottawa during the offseason, his summer itinerary included a week in Japan, two weeks in Bali, back to Ottawa, Sweden, Las Vegas to pick up his Norris Trophy at the NHL Awards, back to Ottawa, back to Sweden for his father's 50th birthday party, a trip to Denmark, two weeks in Greece and finally back to Ottawa to prepare for the 2015-16 season.

The traveling helped Karlsson clear his head after a frenetic end to last season for the Senators, who went 21-3-3 in their final 27 games to reach the playoffs before losing in six games to the Canadiens in the Eastern Conference First Round.

Erik Karlsson
Erik Karlsson - CAREER
Defense - OTT
GOALS: 84 | ASST: 219 | PTS: 303
GAMES: 397
It was a fun ride, but one Karlsson is hoping the Senators won't have to repeat this season.

"At the end of the year we had a pretty good year, but overall it was kind of chaotic and probably not what we want to spend a full year doing," he said. "I think we were happy with making the playoffs and the way we made the playoffs, but at the same time once we got in the playoffs I don't think we had the energy to keep it going. I think we were pretty empty by then."

That doesn't mean Karlsson wants the Senators to forget that late-season run, because there are valuable lessons to be drawn from it. The most important one, he said, is maintaining a high level of play over a long stretch, but doing it for 82 games instead of 27 this time.

"This year the excitement should definitely be there," Karlsson said. "Hopefully we can carry some of the momentum over and go into camp feeling pretty good about ourselves, but knowing a little bit more what to expect from each other and knowing what we need to do to be successful.

"We've got to just keep doing that from the start and try not to have a major dip, which we've had in the previous seasons."

The Senators did not add any significant players over the offseason and said goodbye to goaltender Robin Lehner (trade, Buffalo Sabres), defenseman Eric Gryba (trade, Edmonton Oilers), and forwards Erik Condra (unrestricted free agent, Tampa Bay Lightning) and David Legwand (trade, Sabres).

The departed veterans create room in coach Dave Cameron's lineup for a further infusion of youth. Forwards like Mark Stone, Mika Zibanejad, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Mike Hoffman and Curtis Lazar helped drive Ottawa's push to the playoffs last season and can continue their growth this season by filling bigger roles.

"We pretty much have the same team we had last season," Karlsson said. "We hope that the younger guys have taken steps forward developing and becoming better with time. We don't need the guys to do a whole lot more, we just need guys to progress and demand a little bit more from themselves and do it on a more consistent basis.

"Even though we're a young team, I believe we're good enough to be in the top eight [in the Eastern Conference] by the beginning of April."

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