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Karlsson returns from groin injury for Sharks

Defenseman, who missed 17 straight games, will play against Avalanche in playoff tuneup

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

SAN JOSE -- Erik Karlsson will play in the San Jose Sharks' regular-season finale against the Colorado Avalanche at SAP Center on Saturday (10:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCA+, ALT, NHL.TV) to tune up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The defenseman has missed 27 of the past 32 games with groin injuries.

"See how it feels," Karlsson said. "I've been out for a while. Just going to go out there and get my legs underneath myself and get into situations again and getting ready for Wednesday or Thursday."

The Sharks (45-27-9) are second in the Pacific Division and will play the Vegas Golden Knights in the Western Conference First Round.

"We'd like to get him in, because you can't mimic that in a practice as much as you try," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We're not doing it at the expense of rushing him in any way. I think that was always at the forefront.

"If we had to mimic scrimmages on Tuesday before we start on Wednesday, or Wednesday before we start Thursday, we would have happily done that too. So, I think he's ready for this step, and it's nice to get him back in there."

Karlsson missed nine games from Jan. 19 to Feb. 14. He played four games, missed one, played one, then missed the next 17.

Video: Preview of the Sharks vs. the Golden Knights series

"This is a different one and I think something that I haven't dealt with before," Karlsson said. "First time I sat out, it was different than the second. Whether they were correlated to each other, we don't know. You can't really find that out.

"But I feel like I'm still healing the same way, and I'm still doing the things I need to do for my body to be as prepared as possible for when I do come back. And I feel like I've done that. It feels good, and again, hopefully I don't have to deal with this again."

Karlsson, whom the Sharks acquired from the Ottawa Senators in a blockbuster trade on Sept. 13, has 45 points (three goals, 42 assists) in 52 games this season.

"It's a big boost for our back end," forward Evander Kane said. "We've missed his skill set and poise with the puck and playmaking abilities back there. He looked good in practice, and hopefully it will be a good test run heading into the playoffs tonight."

Forward Timo Meier will not play against the Avalanche because of an injury, but DeBoer called him day to day.

"He would play if tonight was a playoff game," DeBoer said. "I think we're just being cautious with it. He's a little sore, but he's going to be OK."

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