Erik Karlsson elated to return to Senators' lineup
Ottawa has all blue-liners healthy again
The Ottawa Senators confirmed at Thursday's morning skate for a game against the Washington Capitals that defenceman Erik Karlsson will return to the lineup for the first time since suffering a severe Achilles' tendon tear in February.
Last year's Norris Trophy winner as top defenceman will look to help the struggling Senators clinch a playoff spot.
"I've been feeling good lately and I think it's about time to play some hockey again," Karlsson said at the pre-game skate.
Karlsson's presence, coupled with a recent return of Jared Cowen from a season-long hip injury, gives Ottawa a full complement of the defencemen who returned to the club from the 2011-12 season.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray had said in February that the Swedish blue-liner was effectively done for the season after suffering a 70 per cent tear of the tendon.
Karlsson began practising with his teammates last week.
"He said the day after it happened, he had surgery, he said two months," captain and fellow Swede Daniel Alfredsson said. "And we knew that was not possible. We never thought he would be able to come back unless we went really far in the playoffs."
The 22-year-old suffered the injury when his left leg was struck by the skate blade of Pittsburgh forward Matt Cooke. Team owner Eugene Melnyk later said he believed Cooke's action was intentional, which the Penguins player denied.
Karlsson won the Norris last year in just his third season, recording 19 goals and 59 assists.
This season, he has 10 points in 14 games.
Ottawa is tied with the New York Rangers for seventh in the Eastern Conference at 52 points, one more than the Winnipeg Jets.
Ottawa hosts Philadelphia on Saturday and plays on the road Sunday against the Bruins in a game rescheduled because of the Boston Marathon bombing.
Karlsson said he doesn't think he's rushing back. For the first eight weeks after surgery, he wasn't sure about returning this season but knew once he got back on the ice it was possible.
"I think I'm good enough to play," Karlsson said. "I don't know exactly what percentage it is. Obviously it's not the way it was before but it's still good enough to be able to play hockey and hopefully I'll show that tonight."
With files from The Canadian Press