The Ottawa Senators have begun to adjust to life without Erik Karlsson.
Ottawa will be without its star defenceman for the remainder of the season as Karlsson underwent surgery Thursday for a lacerated Achilles after being cut during Wednesday’s game with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
In addition to Karlsson, the Senators were already dealing with the loss of Jason Spezza who had back surgery. The Senators are also missing left-winger Milan Michalek who is nursing a strained knee, Peter Regin who has a chest injury and Guillaume Latendresse who continues to feel the effects of whiplash.
Players admitted on Friday that they were deflated when they first learned of Karlsson’s injury, but they now realize there is no choice but to move forward.
“We just have to play the same way we have, but we know goals might not come as easy,” said captain Daniel Alfredsson. “The way we play is that we don’t wait for other teams to make mistakes we try to generate stuff when we have the puck and we’re going to continue to try doing that.”
Goalie Craig Anderson believes you can’t dwell on who is missing.
“At the end of the day we’re a team and it’s an opportunity for other guys to step up and fill the shoes of guys who are out of the lineup,” said Anderson. “We just have to find ways to win.”
With so many players sidelined the Senators had no choice but to call in reinforcements.
The new faces at practice Friday included defenceman Eric Gryba and forwards Derek Grant and David Dziurzynski from the American Hockey League’s Binghamton Senators. Not one of the three has NHL experience.
All three could make their NHL debut Saturday night in Toronto as the Senators take on the Maple Leafs.
At practice Gryba found himself paired with Marc Methot, Karlsson’s former defence partner.
At 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, Gryba is clearly a different player than Karlsson, but he has been enjoying success in the AHL with five goals and 11 points through 38 games. He also has the best defensive rating in the AHL at plus-28.
“It’s a lifetime dream coming true and I can’t wait to get the opportunity to prove myself,” said Gryba. “Karlsson’s an irreplaceable player. I’m not coming in here trying to do anything than what my strengths are which is hard work, physical presence and keep it simple.
“You won’t see too many toe drags from me, but hopefully keeping the puck out of the net.”
When asked about his new defence partner Methot joked that at least he wouldn’t have to think too hard about his name. Methot realizes life without Karlsson will be a big adjustment, but says the team has no choice but to forge ahead.
“It’s a great opportunity for some of the guys that got called up to show what they’ve got,” said Methot. “We’ve got some new blood in here and hopefully maybe a little bit more adrenalin. We’re going to have to really work hard now and I think a lot of our games are going to be tough grinds.”
With Karlsson playing just over 27 minutes per game, Senators coach Paul MacLean says the onus will fall on the entire defence corps to share the added workload.
Dziurzynski and Grant found themselves on the fourth line with Jim O’Brien, leaving Colin Greening as the team’s extra forward. Greening is pointless in eight straight games and MacLean didn’t deny that watching a game could be beneficial for Greening.
Like Gryba, Dziurzynski and Grant bring an element of size to the lineup. Both are six-foot-three and 214 and 196 pounds respectively. Grant also leads the AHL in short-handed goals with five in 47 games.
While all three players admitted to excitement over making their NHL debut there is also a sense of comfort considering how many familiar faces surround them.
“Most of these guys were on my team this year or I’ve seen them in the past on other teams,” said Grant. “It makes things a lot easier. Obviously the transition isn’t always easy, but coming in and seeing some guys and they help out so it’s nice.”
Notes: Paul MacLean wouldn’t confirm his starting goaltender for Saturday’s game, but Craig Anderson is expected to get the startaMilan Michalek will not make the two-game road trip as he nurses a twisted knee suffered Wednesday night during the warm-up against the PenguinsaPeter Regin is expected to be available to be back in the lineup for Monday’s game against the New Jersey DevilsaThe meteor that struck Russia in the Chelyabinsk region is close to Sergei Gonchar’s hometown where his mother and sister still live, but he said both were fine.