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Erik Karlsson expected in Game 1 lineup for Senators

Forward Zack Smith, defenseman Marc Methot also could play, giving Ottawa healthy lineup for first time in two years

by Chris Stevenson / Correspondent

OTTAWA -- Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson and forward Zack Smith will play in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Boston Bruins at Canadian Tire Centre on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN, SN, TVA Sports 2, NESN).

There's also good chance defenseman Marc Methot will be available, too, giving the Senators some depth.

If Methot can play it would be the first time in almost two years the Senators would be completely healthy.

"In two years we've never had a fully healthy roster," general manager Pierre Dorion said. "This will be the first time if [Methot] can play. We know we're not going to be fully healthy for the whole playoffs. That's not going to happen."

The last game the Senators had all their regular players available was Game 6 of their first-round series against the Montreal Canadiens on April 26, 2015.

Karlsson missed five of the Senators' final seven regular-season games because of two lower-body injuries. Smith missed the last six games with an upper-body injury. Methot missed nine games with a finger injury.

If Methot can play, Senators coach Guy Boucher will have nine healthy defensemen and 17 healthy forwards at his disposal.

Forwards Bobby Ryan (upper body) and Chris Neil (finger) returned against the New York Islanders in a 4-2 loss Sunday. Forward Clarke MacArthur, who had not played since Oct. 14, 2015, returned from two concussions to play the final four games of the regular season and boost Ottawa's depth.

Video: DET@OTT: Karlsson goes top shelf from a sharp angle

The Senators acquired forwards Alexandre Burrows and Viktor Stalberg, and defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka, prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. Forward Christopher DiDomenico was signed as an unrestricted free agent Feb. 28. Defenseman Fredrik Claesson impressed with his play when he got a chance, as did defenseman Ben Harpur when he was called up from Binghamton of the American Hockey League and played the final six games of the season. 

"It's going to be a tough choice and I'm really happy to finally get to that part where I'm going to make a decision this year," Boucher said. "You need that. I've been in the playoffs and the players fall like flies. You need the depth; you need the quality depth. Depth is one thing and quality depth is another and we feel we've got quality depth now especially after we've seen Claesson have to play all these games and minutes. You look at Harpur and Jokipakka. Now we feel really confident with the goaltender tandem [Craig Anderson and Mike Condon]. We're confident with all our defensemen and look at the number of players who are healthy and available with the forwards. That's what you want.

"People say it's going to be a happy problem. There's a word 'problem' in there, but I look at the word 'happy.' I'm going to get a choice. From game to game it's going to be a different decision."

Dorion said Senators owner Eugene Melnyk gave him the green light to increase payroll and add players before the deadline, and that has given the Senators the depth they enjoy now. It also might have been the difference in making the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's a tremendous advantage," Dorion said. "You know there's an internal competition. The coach can do whatever he wants. Against a certain team he might have a certain lineup, against another team he might have another lineup. I think it's a great advantage for us. 

"It's the ability Mr. Melnyk gave us to go out and get some players at the trade deadline. It's really paid dividends. Imagine where we would be right now if we didn't have all the trades we made. Would we have made the playoffs? There was only four points between us making it and not making it. Those were a big four points."

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