No PanIkea: Erik Karlsson’s Return Is Close

There was a point in this NHL season in which things looked bleaker than Ilya Zubov’s future with the Ottawa Senators organization. When Erik Karlsson joined Jason Spezza on the IR, fans in this city started writing this team off like we had time-warped back to 1994.

Fortunately for the organization however, supplementary players like Pat Elynuik were not walking through those dressing room doors.

Instead, at various points throughout the course of this abbreviated season, fourteen rookies have seamlessly transitioned themselves into the lineup and made contributions. You can thank management’s shrewd drafting and the stockpiling of assets for that. Throw in some equally important player development and the Senators have been able to stem the tide in the absence of their best players.

Now as we approach the playoffs, we’re casting a yearning eye at the team’s IR and probably for the first time since 2005/06, it felt like the Senators could do some significant damage in the postseason if the chips fell the team’s way and guys got healthy.

As Scott pointed out on Twitter, the Senators have been playing some great hockey of late.

It’s never fun to tear the scab off the wound created by Dominik Hasek’s ill-timed adductor injury at the 2006 Turin Olympics, but everyone’s hopes – the team, the fans, the coaching staff, and management – was pinned to the Dominator’s return. In 2013, it’s much of the same. Without their Norris Trophy winning defenceman and their number one center, everyone’s expectations are tempered.

Mind you, the aura circling this 2013 team is certainly different than it was back then.

Panic has not set in. This Senators team is not burdened by the lofty expectations created by being considered a Stanley Cup favorite. The consensus feeling is that this team’s best years are ahead of it and its window is nowhere near being closed.

But, now that Erik Karlsson has been cleared for contact, rejoining his teammates at practice today, all fans care about now is when he will be cleared for launch. With the team’s sustained success, why couldn’t this team go on a bit of a run should he return?

And with the playoffs scheduled to start on April 30th, it certainly seems like he’s going to play.

via a Friday Garrioch story:

GM Bryan Murray told the media the date of Karlsson’s return is up to him because “he’s 100%.”

“He’s ready. He just has to get in game shape now, have a few more practices, and then we’re hoping that somewhere down the road he’ll get himself ready to play,” said Murray.

“But he’s healthy. The doctors checked him out again (Thursday) and we wouldn’t have him out there if he wasn’t. We wouldn’t want to put him in a game until he felt he was physically ready to play.”

Murray’s last point is the big one. If Karlsson wasn’t going to return, there’s not a chance in hell they would fill their players false hope so close to the playoffs. Having gone through this with Hasek, it seems like Murray has learned his lesson here.

Nobody wants another Robert Griffin III incident here in which Dr. Chow is hovering over his felled patient like Dr. James Andrews, but fortunately, Karlsson insisted to the Ottawa media that he isn’t going to rush back.

“Every injured player wants to get back as quick as possible. I’m not going to put myself in a situation where I don’t feel comfortable and I’m not going to jeopardize anything going into next season.

“I’m not going to take any stupid decisions and I don’t think anyone working around me either is going to give me bad advice. We’re going to have to wait to see how it feels going forward practising with the team.”

Nails. 

A Note From Last Night’s Game:

Zack Smith, Erik Condra and Matt Kassian were the only Senators players to not register positive double-digit Corsi ratings last night. (Note: Corsi is a metric used to measure puck possession. It essentially is a shot-differential +/- that tabulates the number of shots directed at a net –shots on goal, missed shots, blocked shots. A positive number corresponds with a player being on the ice for more shots directed in his team’s favor than against.)

Matt Cooke May Not Play Versus Ottawa

There is some feeling amongst the media-types in this city that the Senators may not have a chance to get any retribution on Matt Cooke when the Pittsburgh Penguins visit Scotiabank Place. Although Pittsburgh has recalled shitbag tough guy Steve MacIntyre for the game, talk is, the Penguins are considering scratching Cooke from the lineup entirely.

What is getting lost in this conversation is the possibility that Ottawa and Pittsburgh may face each other in the first round of the playoffs. 

In fact, with the whole Cooke/Karlsson incident and the outstanding Eugene Melnyk's forensic study being done, there are almost too many narratives for this series not to happen. 

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