Tea Leaves Point To Karlsson Playing Tomorrow

Erik Karlsson is the best PR tool that the Senators organization is blessed with. When videotape evidence captured the 2012 Norris Trophy winner skating for what was presumably one of the first times since having surgery to repair his Achilles tendon, Ottawa was in the midst of a four-game losing streak that sent them plummeting towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

After Monday’s potentially disastrous loss to the James Neal/Evgeni Malkin/Sidney Crosby/Kris Letang-less Pittsburgh Penguins, every Sens fans was pining for the Washington Capitals to do Ottawa a favor by beating the Jets and preventing Winnipeg from leapfrogging the Senators into eighth place in the standings.

I’m going to go off on bit of a tangent here… but what the hell was up with the number of individuals that I saw on the blog’s social media feed criticizing the Senators for not hanging with Pittsburgh’s B-team? Seems like no one is mindful of the fact that the Binghamton Senators are poised to clinch playoff spot; although, maybe this is the greatest credit that you could give to Paul MacLean and his coaching staff here.

I digress.

Before the Caps knocked off their faux-Southeast Division rivals last night, the negativity enshrouding the Senators following Monday night’s loss was more palpable than the peoples disdain for Don(g) Brennan’s junk.

With a need to help curb this pessimism, the Senators announced that Erik Karlsson was returning…to Twitter (@erikkarlsson65).

Some may remember former Senators forward Jarkko Ruutu had convinced Karlsson to join the Twitterverse after a tennis matchup between the two, which, I believe, took place during the summer of 2011.

It may not be the return that some were hoping for, but consider Karlsson is skating with Marc Methot in practice today, his return seems inevitable and could come as soon as tomorrow night in Washington.

They certainly could use whatever offensive help Karlsson can provide. Since beating the Rangers on March 28th, the Senators are 4-7-0 in their last 11 games played. Although they have averaged 35.54 shots per game during this stretch, they have only scored on 5.12% of their shots.

The expectation for some regression to the mean regarding the team’s shooting percentage is a reasonable one and is something that should not be even be contingent upon Karlsson’s return to the lineup. But if it regresses with Karlsson back in, we know who will get the credit.

Karlsson's Post-Practice Media Scrum: 

From the Score's Daniel Slater

Impact of Karlsson’s return to the lineup:

As exciting as it is to have a premier offensive talent return, today’s morning skate pairings leave something to be desired. Jared Cowen has been reunited with Sergei Gonchar and Chris Phillips is paired with Eric Gryba, meaning that it looks like Patrick Wiercioch is the odd man out.

Gryba’s With or Without You (WOWY) numbers indicate that his teammates are certainly better off without being on the ice with him than with him, so it’s surprising to see him be ranked ahead of Wiercioch in the pecking order; albeit, some of his negative metrics could be attributable to the fact that he spent the bulk of his minutes playing tough minutes against the opposition’s best forwards with Methot.

Gryba has some value and he may benefit from some sheltered minutes with Chris Phillips on the team’s third pairing, and he certainly brings a large, physical dimension to his game that Wiercioch lacks…and he is right-shot. But again, as a team that is struggling for offence, Wiercioch’s absence will affect Ottawa’s transition game and struggling power play – two facets of the game where the team could use some help. It's not like this guy scord the only goal last time out and is the 5th leading scorer on the team or anything.

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