SOCHI -- One of the players many considered would best be able to exploit the extra space available on the international ice surface was Sweden defenseman Erik Karlsson.
The Ottawa Senators offensive wizard has the smooth skating stride and ice vision that seems tailor made for the extra 15 feet of width on the ice rinks in use for the tournament at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
But there is one person who doesn't agree with the perception that he will benefit from playing on the big ice: Erik Karlsson.
"I wouldn't say it's easier for me to play over here," Karlsson said after Sweden's practice Tuesday. "It's just as long, it's just that it's wider and it's a different type of game. You have to change a little bit and it's going to be interesting to see how it goes. But it's the same for everyone."
Karlsson's free-wheeling style in the NHL does not typically involve much east-west movement. His speed makes it unnecessary because Karlsson can often blow by a forechecking forward skating straight ahead.
In Sochi, Karlsson's skill will be paired with that of Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Phoenix Coyotes, another strong skater who can change a game with his rushes up the ice.
"We're both pretty skilled players and great skaters," Karlsson said. "I think it's going to be no real issue playing both ends of the ice. He's one of those types of players I enjoy playing with and I think he feels the same. We're moving the puck well and I see no real issues with anything whether it's the defensive zone or the offensive zone."
This is Karlsson's first Olympic experience, but he has vivid memories of Sweden's last gold medal at the 2006 Turin Olympics, when Nicklas Lidstrom scored 10 seconds into the third period to give Sweden a 3-2 win against archrival Finland.
Lidstrom's absence from these games is being felt on the Swedish team, and even though Karlsson never played with him internationally he says he can feel the void that's left behind.
It's one Karlsson hopes he is able to fill.
"I've been around for a while, I played in a couple of World Championships," Karlsson said. "I want to be a big factor on this team, and log a lot of minutes here and [have] a big impact. It's an opportunity I need to make happen."
Author: Arpon Basu - Managing Editor LNH.com