The Ottawa Senators will likely be without their Norris Trophy-winning defenceman for the rest of the season.
Erik Karlsson, who was voted the NHL’s best blueliner last summer and was the team’s most valuable player this season after goalie Craig Anderson, left Wednesday night’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins after suffering a lacerated Achilles tendon.
He fell to the ice after Penguins winger Matt Cooke’s skate sliced his leg during an attempted body check in the dying seconds of the second period.
Karlsson wasn’t able put any weight on his leg as he was helped off the ice and rushed to the dressing room, where medical staff assessed his injury.
The speedy defenceman was leading the Senators with six goals heading into Wednesday night’s game and was second in points (10) behind centre Kyle Turris.
Karlsson serves as the team’s offensive catalyst on the power play and had also started picking up significant time on the penalty kill.
His focus on improving his all-around game had many suggesting he’d be a finalist for the Norris again this season.
He’d picked up right where he left off last season, when he shattered the franchise record for points by a defenceman with 78. The second place finishers in defence scoring in 2011-12 were Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien and Florida’s Brian Campbell, who each put up 53.
The runaway performance catapulted Karlsson from blue chip prospect to one of the top players in the league.
Now the team will have to move on without him.
The news couldn’t come at a worse time for the Senators, who are already without star centre Jason Spezza.
He recently underwent surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back, which is expected to keep him out until the closing weeks of the season. The team has struggled to score goals since then and couldn’t afford to lose another top offensive player.
With their No. 1 defenceman and forward out, the Senators are a major long shot to make the playoffs.