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The ice surface and bowl of the Canadian Tire Centre is photographed September 7, 2017 in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk believes less could mean more.

Tired of seeing too many empty seats, the NHL club has made the decision to reduce capacity at Canadian Tire Centre by 1,500 to about 17,000. Rows in the upper bowl have been covered with tarps.

The team struggled to sell out the building last season, even in the playoffs.

"The attendance shifts have been dramatic over a period of two decades," Melnyk told reporters Thursday. "The whole trend now is less seats and more clubs and frankly smaller stadiums.

"When you look at things like a new stadium downtown, we're not going to build a 20,000-seat stadium. It will probably be closer to 15,000-17,000 in there."

Melnyk and team president Tom Anselmi wouldn't reveal season ticket numbers but the two are hopeful that by removing seats fans will feel the need to purchase season tickets with the potential of there being fewer tickets available on a walk-up basis.

Melnyk did say ticket sales for the outdoor game against the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 16 at TD Place have been brisk.

"This is probably the most excited I've been ever as an owner of the team," Melnyk said. "There's just so much going on."

Meantime, GM Pierry Dorion confirmed captain Erik Karlsson won't be back in time for the start of the season. The star defenceman underwent surgery in late June to repair torn tendons in his left foot and at this time has no timetable on his return.

"The first step for Erik will be skating and we think that will happen within the next two weeks," said Dorion. "Once he starts skating we'll have a better idea of when he's ready."

Dorion is hopeful Derick Brassard, who underwent right shoulder surgery, will be ready to play early in the season. Brassard has resumed skating.

"We feel really comfortable that with Derick he'll be close to playing when the regular season starts," said Dorion. "We don't know until he has contact."

In both cases, the Senators have no intention of rushing either player's return.

"The season is a marathon," said Dorion. "We're not going to take any shortcuts for someone not to be as close to 100 per cent, not as close as performing at their best just for someone to get into the lineup a week into the year if they're not ready. We're going to do things right."

Dorion believes the team has enough depth to survive whatever length of absence will be necessary. If anything the absences could create opportunities for others.

The Senators GM said he was considering extending a couple of Professional Tryout opportunities to some players as they open training camp next week.

Dorion knows expectations will be high for the Senators right from the start after last year's run to the Eastern Conference Finals and says the team is fully prepared.

"I think it's very important for us to build upon what we did last year. I think it's important for our organization, our fan base and more importantly for the players."

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The Canadian Press