OTTAWA — Erik Karlsson wasn’t about to let Eugene Melnyk’s comments take away from one of the greatest weekends of his life.
The Senators captain played his best game of the season Saturday night in the NHL 100 Classic outdoor game as Ottawa blanked the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 at TD Place. Sunday was even better as Karlsson found out he and wife Melinda are expecting a boy.
Some of the good feeling around the outdoor game was tainted when Melnyk, the Senators’ owner, made comments Friday criticizing fan support and speculating on the relocation of the franchise.
Karlsson, however, did not seem overly worried about his owner’s opinion.
"That’s none of our business, that’s what he worries about," Karlsson said Monday. "We worry about playing hockey and that’s all we can control and that’s what we get paid to do so we show up every day and do the best that we can at what we do."
The outdoor game gave the Senators a chance to take a break from their struggles this season — they have an 11-13-7 record so far this season — and focus on something positive.
"Having full stands from warm-up to the last seconds of the game was really spectacular," Karlsson said. "I think they did a good job with everything around it. I think we got to enjoy more than just a game and obviously the fans did most of the hard work and we appreciate that a lot."
The next day was even more exciting as Karlsson and his wife found out the gender of their first child in a unique way. Karlsson fired a specially-designed puck that emitted a puff of blue smoke when struck by the defenceman’s stick. Melinda shared the announcement in Instagram.
"We would have been excited no matter what, but the way that we did it was pretty cool since neither of us knew," said Karlsson. "The only person who knew was the person who made the puck so it was an exciting moment."
The 27-year-old is set to become an unrestricted free agent following the 2018-19 season. He said he hasn’t considered his future beyond that point.
"That’s something that I haven’t really thought about," said Karlsson. "I’m happy right now. I’m happy where I’m at. I’m worried about making sure we get out of this slump we’re in here and making the post-season again."
Melnyk also said that since he’s already running the organization on a budget the next area that could be targeted is player’s salaries, which is disconcerting for some when they know their captain’s contract is soon up for renewal.
"I would be lying if I said you don’t read into that at all because you do," forward Zack Smith said. "The message to us is clear, if we don’t win, if we’re not producing then there’s going to be changes.
"A comment like that … at the same time is fair, if you put together a team and it doesn’t win or it doesn’t meet expectations than the nature of the beast is things are going to change."
The Senators will look to build on a two-game winning streak Tuesday when they hosts the Minnesota Wild (17-13-3).
After losing five straight Senators coach Guy Boucher is starting to see his team play a much more structured style of play, which has reaped rewards.
"Our fundamentals were really good the last two games," Boucher said. "The enthusiasm, the work ethic and the discipline was there and we know when we’ve got that we’re very competitive."
Craig Anderson was given a maintenance day Monday, but will get the start Tuesday. Gabriel Dumont suffered an ankle injury Saturday and will likely sit out allowing Nick Paul to get back in.