BY IAN MENDES
When the Ottawa Senators start the season on Saturday night in New York, 19-year-old Erik Karlsson will be in the lineup and playing a significant role.
Karlsson, the Senators first-round pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, survived the club’s final roster cuts and will be paired with Filip Kuba to start the season.
“When Bryan Murray and Cory (Clouston) talked to me (yesterday), I had a feeling I might stay. They told me I was going to start the season here, but it’s far from over,” said Karlsson on Wednesday morning. “I still have nine games to prove I’m worthy of staying here. I’ll do everything to stay here and play here the whole year.”
Karlsson will help the team primarily on the power play, but according to head coach Cory Clouston, the Swedish teenager is ready for a bigger role alongside the veteran Kuba.
“He’s shown right now that on certain nights he can play top-four minutes five-on-five and help out on the power play,” explained Clouston, who said he would adjust Karlsson’s minutes depending upon the opponent.
Also surviving the final roster cut on the blue line was Matt Carkner, who will start the season on the third defensive pairing with Chris Campoli. Carkner, who has just two NHL games under his belt, was seen as a longshot to make the team out of camp.
“I started training camp as a forward and now I made the team as a defenseman, so you never know what’s going to happen,” Carkner said. “I’m 28 years old as well and that was another knock against me. But I just kept working hard and trying to prove myself. And I’ve been given the opportunity to start the season here and I’ve got to just keep going.”
Carkner’s spot on the roster was cemented when the Senators sent Brian Lee down to AHL Binghamton on Tuesday afternoon. Carkner was seen by the coaching staff as someone who could bring an element of toughness to Ottawa’s back end.
“It’s important we had someone like Matt in our lineup to see where he fits. What he brings to the table is very valuable,” said Clouston, who coached Carkner in the AHL last season.
Up front, Peter Regin learned that he will also start the season with the NHL club, despite being somewhat of a longshot three weeks ago. Against the Rangers on Saturday, the 23-year-old is expected to centre the team’s second line with Alexei Kovalev and Mike Fisher.
“I made the first game at least. But I’m still trying to stick around every game,” said Regin. “I still have to prove myself every game, but obviously I’m excited about making the team out of camp.”
Clouston was quick to point out that any of the three players – Karlsson, Carkner or Regin – could be sent to the minors at any time. The head coach emphasized that making the team out of training camp offers no guarantees down the road.
“It could be for a week or it could be for a year and anywhere in between there could be a possibility,” explained Clouston. “By no means do they think they can let up and relax and think they’ve done something. Because each day, they’re being re-evaluated.”
Notes: The Senators did not practice on Wednesday, as Clouston opted for an off-ice workout and video sessions instead….The club is expected to name an alternate captain on Thursday. Mike Fisher and Jason Spezza are considered the favorites to join Chris Phillips as alternates to Daniel Alfredsson….Alexandre Picard will likely start the season as a healthy scratch as the team’s seventh defenseman….Jesse Winchester is expected to start skating in the next day or two, but is still at least two weeks away from returning from a lower body injury.