OTTAWA – The sight of Daniel Alfredsson skating in an Ottawa Senators jersey so soon after the very public airing of grievances between him and his former team may have surprised some people.
Erik Karlsson wasn’t one of them.
“It’s pretty normal, I mean he’s been doing it for a while,” the Senators defenceman said with a laugh. “It’s when he puts the other jersey that it would feel a little different probably.”
Alfredsson joined other NHL players at an informal skate at Bell Sensplex on Monday. Last week the former Senators captain made headlines when he said negotiations to bring him back to Ottawa for another season “went nowhere,” causing general manager Bryan Murray to publicly defend the front office.
The 40-year-old Alfredsson signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Red Wings July 5 as a free agent after negotiations with the Senators fell through.
Karlsson has grown close to Alfredsson, a fellow Swede, and even lived with him at times. He admits things will be very different without his mentor around on a daily basis.
“For me on a personal level it’s going to be tough for me, we’re close friends and he’s helped me out a lot. I only wish him all the best,” he said. “I still think we’ll be friends.
“I don’t think it’s that sudden and I’m just happy he’s still playing,” Karlsson added. “We have to move on and I think we have guys on the team that’s ready to take the next step and as of right now everybody’s pretty excited to focus on our game and becoming a better team.”
Alfredsson’s departure after 17 seasons with the Senators undoubtedly means a change of leadership will have to take place, but Karlsson is confident the team will be able to adjust accordingly.
“There’s going to be changes inside the locker-room and on the ice and I think the group of guys we have are going to handle that perfectly I think,” said Karlsson. “I think there will be no problems moving on from here and as I said it was just a matter of time before Alfie was gone.”
Karlsson is back in Ottawa after spending much of the summer in Sweden and appears to be making progress in recovering from a partially lacerated Achilles tendon.
Karlsson suffered a 70 per cent tear to his Achilles Feb. 13 in a game against Pittsburgh when Penguins forward Matt Cooke stepped on his leg.
He was expected to miss the remainder of the season following the injury, but the 23-year-old played the last three games of the regular season and all of Ottawa’s 10 playoff games. Karlsson’s return was impressive, but it was clear he had a long way to go before returning to form.
The 2012 Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s top defenceman says he’s been working hard and is excited about the upcoming season.
“I can feel the excitement right now coming back. It’s been a short summer it feels like, but I think overall I feel great and happy to be back early.”
As for his injury, Karlsson sees no reason for concern.
“It feels good actually, I’m a little bit surprised myself. I’ve been able to do most of the normal stuff that I do in the summers and I’ve been focusing a lot in trying to get it back as strong and as quickly as possible and as of right now I don’t think I would have any concerns going into training camp.
“Right now it feels normal to me even if it’s not as it used to be, but I don’t think it’s going to stop me from being a good hockey player and moving forward in my career. I don’t have any concerns right now that it’s going to affect me.”
One of Karlsson’s greatest attributes was his skating and following the injury many questioned whether or not it would be affected.
“As of right now it doesn’t feel like it, but we’ll see when the first game comes,” he said.
Karlsson said his condition has improved considerably since his return to action last season.
“I’ve had some time now working off the ice and really trying to get it into shape,” he said. “I barely feel it anymore when I do certain stuff that I did before, especially on the ice it doesn’t feel close to what it did last season.”
“As of right now I don’t think I could have felt any better than I do right now and I didn’t expect to feel this good at this period of time.”