Karlsson already skating after surgery on Feb. 14

The slumping Ottawa Senators were full of optimism here Monday after seeing video of star defenceman Erik Karlsson working out on the ice back in Ottawa.

Karlsson already skating after surgery on Feb. 14
Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson was back on the ice at the Bell Sensplex on Monday

TAMPA, Fla. — The slumping Ottawa Senators were full of optimism here Monday after seeing video of star defenceman Erik Karlsson working out on the ice back in Ottawa.

It’s a startling development, considering that Karlsson wasn’t originally expected to be skating until the summer after having Achilles tendon surgery on Feb. 14. The injury resulted from Matt Cooke of the Pittsburgh Penguins slicing the back of Karlsson’s leg with his skate.

NHL players who have had similar surgeries in the past, including former Senators Dean McAmmond and Sami Salo, have said the normal recovery time is six to seven months.

It was beyond anyone’s wildest dreams that Karlsson could be back on skates within eight weeks. However, if he continues to progress, there’s a chance he could be available to the Senators if they advance to the playoffs, which would likely begin May 1.

“It’s not that far-fetched that he might play before the end of the season, before the end of the regular season,” goaltender Craig Anderson said following a practice here late Monday afternoon. “I saw the video of him (Monday) morning and I was quite impressed. He skates better than I do, even at the state he’s in right now. I think a few of the other guys kicking around here said that he skates better than them already.

“It’s definitely a positive. Erik is one in a million. He’s a guy that defies all the odds, right from the day he was drafted to today with the injury. He’s able to do things that nobody ever thought he would do.”

The Karlsson update was a welcome news for the Senators, who have lost four consecutive games and whose hold on a playoff spot has dwindled to only four points. The Senators are 0-3 in the first three games of their seven-game road trip and play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.

The video, captured by CBC Ottawa, shows Karlsson working closely with Senators power skating instructor Marc Power. While Karlsson is a long way from being able to practise with his teammates, he is able to skate forward and backward, manoeuvring between pucks set a few feet apart on the ice.

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson says Karlsson, who won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman last season, first told him “two or three weeks ago” that he was going to return to the ice.

“I’ve talked to him a few times,” Alfredsson said. “He’s getting better and better. I’ve got no idea how far he would be (in his recovery) and if he could play (this season). If he could, when, I don’t know. He’s going to do everything he can to come back, and if he does, it’s going to be a huge bonus for us.”

Alfredsson says that, from the outset, the 22-year-old Karlsson refused to accept the normal estimates for recovery from Achilles tendon surgery.

“He said the day after he got hurt that he was going to be back in four weeks,” Alfredsson said. “He’s a pretty optimistic guy. I’ve been impressed with his dedication. It would have been easy to accept the fact that the season is over. But he’s really pushed himself. He has given himself a chance.”

Normally, Senators coaches and management don’t talk much about injured players, and coach Paul MacLean was coy when asked about Karlsson skating.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” MacLean said, with a smile. “That can’t be true.”

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CBC shot video of Karlsson skating.

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