Erik Karlsson of Senators to be in lineup for Game 1 of conference final
Ottawa defenseman playing through injured left heel, set to face Penguinsby Chris Stevenson / NHL.com Correspondent
OTTAWA -- Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson left the ice at Canadian Tire Centre about five minutes into practice Friday but will play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, TVA Sports, NBC).
Karlsson, who has two hairline fractures in his left heel sustained in late March, said there was no need for concern.
"I just tried new skates on, and that was the plan all along (to leave practice early)," said Karlsson, whose average ice time of 28:56 is the most of any skater remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. "Nothing really to read into there, either."
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Karlsson leads the Senators with 13 points (two goals, 11 assists) in 12 playoff games and was dominant in Ottawa's six-game second-round series win against the New York Rangers. He scored the winning goals in Games 1 and 6 and had assists on late game-tying goals in Games 2 and 5.
In the series-clinching win in Game 6, with the Senators protecting a 3-2 third-period lead, Karlsson played 6:27 of the final 8:24 and finished with 28:44.
"You're always tired, but everybody does what they have to do to help the team win," Karlsson said. "I did my part, same as everybody else did theirs. Whether I played more than anyone else, I don't think that had anything to do with why we won the game."
If the Senators are going to defeat the Penguins and advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2007, Karlsson likely will have to be the best player in the series.
Video: OTT@NYR, Gm6: Karlsson buries Ryan's slick dish
"They're a good team," Karlsson said of the defending Stanley Cup champions. "They're in this position because they are a good team. They won last year. They have tons of experience. They know what they are going to have to do to be successful. It's going to be up to us to focus on ourselves and doing the things that we feel we have to do to be successful and shutting them down.
"They've been in this position a bunch before and they have players that obviously won, not only once, but multiple times. It's a nice challenge for us that's going to be a lot of fun and bring us a lot of experience. We're in a learning process and we're going to learn how to win this one."
PPG Paints Arena, then known as Consol Energy Center, is where Karlsson sustained a deep cut to his left Achilles tendon in a collision with then-Penguins forward Matt Cooke on Feb. 13, 2013. Karlsson missed 31 games in the 48-game season but returned for the playoffs; the Senators lost to the Penguins in five games.
"It's just like any other rink," Karlsson said. "I'm left with permanent damage because of it, but there's not much to do about it now. I'm not going be able to reverse it or anything like that. You just have to move forward. I moved away from that a long time ago. If I remember correctly, we played them already that year in the playoffs and I was past it already then."