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Karlsson 'feeling fine,' eager to take aim at Rangers

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Erik Karlsson figures he did the right thing — for both himself and his teammates.

But after sitting out one game, the National Hockey League's highest-scoring defence says he's eager and ready to face off against the Eastern Conference-leading Rangers tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York (7 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).

"I'm feeling fine and I should be ready for tonight," Karlsson said after taking part in the Senators' pre-game skate earlier today at the Garden. "As of right now, there shouldn't be any problem."

Karlsson pulled himself out of Tuesday's matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins after suffering an upper-body injury "when I was doing things on my own" during the warmup at the Consol Energy Center. But two days later, he's convinced the issue is now behind him.

"It was just a little tweak and I didn't feel very good at all," said Karlsson, who's totalled 41 points (6-35) in 43 games for the Senators. "I've had it before, but not this bad and not right before a game. So we played it safe and it turned out pretty good anyway. It was probably the right thing to do."

The fact the Senators recorded a 5-1 win also made the decision a little easier to swallow.

"I was pretty mad at myself and my body right then," said Karlsson. "Sometimes, you've got to do what you've got to do. (It was better to) rest one game instead of playing it and not play good and not helping out your team ... that's what I felt, I wasn't able to go out and be a contributor to our team.

"I decided to rest, we came away with a 5-1 win and Carks (Matt Carkner) played great. So I'm pretty happy about my decision."

Naturally, the Senators (23-15-6) are most happy to have one of their top players back in the lineup against the red-hot Rangers (27-9-4), who have won five straight and now own the top record in the National Hockey League.

"Erik's obviously a very important player for us," said Senators head coach Paul MacLean. "He generates a lot of offence for us and is arguably our best player. Any time you get one of them back, it's good for your team."

Added forward Nick Foligno: "He's such a big part of our team and such a great player and an all-star. It's going to be great to have him back. He just adds that dimension ... he's another dangerous player that other teams have to watch for and we hope to continue our success with him."

The Rangers aren't the only hot team hitting the ice tonight. Ottawa is on a 9-1-2 run that has propelled it to fifth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. However, MacLean knows the teams' third matchup of the season — they split the previous two — should provide a benchmark game of sorts.

"Right now, they're the No. 1 team in the league," he said. "The biggest thing they've done is be consistent night in and night out in how they play the game. They do it the same way and they do it harder and longer than you do, and they get timely goaltending. Their best players are playing real well for them. To me, it's the consistency of their team play that's gotten them to where they are.

"We have to make sure we match it, at least, and give ourselves an opportunity (to win)."

Around the boards

MacLean doesn't believe it's mere coincidence that the Senators have gone 8-1-2 since acquiring centre Kyle Turris from the Phoenix Coyotes. "He's solidified the depth of our team and given us a legitimate second-line centre that we can play against anybody in the league," said MacLean. "He's generated points from that position as well. But for me, he makes us a deeper team and a harder team to defend" ... Craig Anderson, who's 6-0-1 in his last seven appearances, makes the start in goal ... Ottawa is 4-0-0 in its last four trips to Madison Square Garden ... The Senators wrap up their road trip Saturday in Montreal against the Canadiens (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). 

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