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In this March, 3, 2018, file photo, Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson pauses on the ice during the second period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Arizona Coyotes in Glendale, Ariz.Ross D. Franklin

Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson and his wife Melinda are expressing thanks for the support they have received after the death of their son.

The Karlssons posted a message Wednesday on Twitter thanking the public for offering "love and support" and respecting their privacy. The message confirmed that their son, Axel, was stillborn.

"At this extremely difficult time it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel but we know one day we'll get there," they said. "We would like to thank everyone for the love and support we have received and also for respecting our privacy and the process that we need to go through.

"We feel very lucky to be Axel's parents. Even though he was stillborn, we know we will hold him again one day under different circumstances and the joy he gave us will be with us forever."

The 27-year-old star defenceman and his wife announced in November they were expecting their first child.

Karlsson's teammates rallied around him after Tuesday night's home game against Florida.

"I can't even imagine what Erik and Melinda are going through right now," defenceman Mark Boroweicki said. "It puts perspective on life and what's going on here. It's important they take time to grieve and be together.

"There is so much love coming out of this dressing room for them. Erik is a huge part of this team and Erik and Melinda are a huge part of this community and this city. We really are a family in here and it hurts all of us deeply. It's so important they take all the time they need and we respect that and show our support and love in whatever way we can."

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