|Just when he was playing the best hockey of his young career, Senators rookie defenceman Erik Karlsson has been sidelined with a shoulder injury (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images).
Just as he was truly revving up his game, Erik Karlsson
is being forced to take an unwanted pit stop.
The Ottawa Senators rookie defenceman learned this morning he is likely out until after the Olympic break with a right shoulder injury suffered in a collision with Ryan Kelser during the second period of Thursday night's 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks at Scotiabank Place.
"It's very disappointing," the 19-year-old Karlsson said earlier today. "It's not a good feeling to get this right now, but I just have to work through it and be even stronger when I come back."
Depending on your viewpoint, it's either the best of timing or the worst for Karlsson. On the one hand, the 15-day Olympic break should give him plenty of time to get himself healthy for the stretch drive to the playoffs. But on the other, the injury comes at a point when Karlsson was playing the best hockey of his young career. His dynamic offensive play has played a large role in the Senators' current 11-game winning streak.
"He was playing really well and he's going to be missed, no question, because of what he brought offensively with the puck," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson
said of his fellow Swede. "But he'll be back soon enough. Maybe he can use this rest as well and come back even stronger."
Added Senators head coach Cory Clouston: "If you're going to have (this injury), this would be a nice time to have it, when you have a whole extra two weeks to rehab it. We're crossing our fingers that it's not going to be any longer than as soon as we get back from the break."
Clouston had come to rely more heavily on the gifted Karlsson as he game continued to evolve. In Saturday's overtime triumph over the Montreal Canadiens, his stretch pass to Mike Fisher set up the game-winner in the extra period. He found Alfredsson with a laser of a pass for another deciding goal in the final minute Tuesday night in Buffalo.
"(Karlsson) was playing his best hockey of the season by far," said Clouston. "He's come such a long way in such a short time. He's been playing with a lot of confidence and poise ... He's shown he's going to be a heck of a player down the road, not only right now."
Alex Picard draws into the lineup to replace Karlsson, starting with Saturday's visit to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs (7 p.m., CBC, Team 1200). With a franchise-record streak on the line, Karlsson no doubt would love to play a hand in extending it.
"It's never fun to get this when you feel good and the team is playing really well," said Karlsson, who will miss game action because of an injury for the first time.
"It’s very sad for him. He was playing maybe his best hockey ever lately, so it’s tough for him and tough for the team. He really helped us out and he made some big plays on some huge goals for us lately. It’s no good for the team and I feel sorry for him. He’s disappointed about it but that’s part of the game and he knows that. Guys do get hurt." - Peter Regin
Watching from the sidelines doesn't figure to be easy for a guy with so much enthusiasm for the game and a career that is only just beginning to blossom.
"It’s very sad for him," said Senators centre Peter Regin
, Karlsson's best friend on the team. "He was playing maybe his best hockey ever lately, so it’s tough for him and tough for the team. He really helped us out and he made some big plays on some huge goals for us lately. It’s no good for the team and I feel sorry for him
"He’s disappointed about it but that’s part of the game and he knows that. Guys do get hurt."
Regin and his teammates have watched Karlsson take an astonishing leap forward in the past month. The offensive gifts that compelled the Senators to make him their top pick (15th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft were on full display in recent games.
"He’s a confident guy," said Regin. "I think at the beginning of the year, he had to grow into it a little and when he finally did, you could tell he had his confidence back. He wanted to do (more) stuff on the ice and he was good with the puck all the time.
"That’s what he didn’t do in the beginning (of the season). He tried to do stuff he has never done. Now he's figured out how he has to play to be successful."Around the boards
Forwards Alex Kovalev and Milan Michalek
, along with defenceman Chris Phillips
, took "maintenance" days away from practice today. All are expected to be good to go against the Leafs ... After Saturday, the Senators have four more games remaining before the Olympic shutdown. They're at home Tuesday against the Calgary Flames (7:30 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) and Thursday versus the Eastern Conference-leading Washington Capitals (7 p.m., TSN, Team 1200) before hitting the road for back-to-back games against the Detroit Red Wings (Feb. 13) and New York Islanders (Feb. 14).