Karlsson moving along despite minus

DON BRENNAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:58 PM ET

ATLANTA — It was shorts and T-shirt weather Thursday in sunny Georgia, where the Senators were once again poised to enter the cold, dark NHL basement.

A loss to the Thrashers coupled with an Edmonton victory over  the Columbus Blue Jackets would put Ottawa at the very bottom of the NHL standings — and in possession of the best odds at owning the first pick in the upcoming entry draft.

While that may place the organization in an enviable position June 24 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., none of the players want to be last in any team or individual department.

That goes for Erik Karlsson, too.

Don’t mistake his confident disposition for a lack of caring. But while he doesn’t like the fact that he is the only NHL all-star who currently stands out as the worst at something, he says he’s not losing any sleep over his minus-32 ranking.

Nobody in the league is on the south side of that mark, which puts Karlsson in 853rd place in the plus-minus race. Second-worst is Filip Kuba’s minus-27, while the next notch up is Chris Phillips, at minus-25.

“I stopped thinking about it when I was minus-20, I think,” Karlsson said Thursday morning. “It’s something you can look back at in a few years, hopefully, and laugh about it. I mean, I just try to do my best.

“Obviously, you know it’s there,” he added of the black mark that goes with his nine goals and 24 assists. “I don’t put too much time into figuring out why. That’s the way it is. We let in one goal (Tuesday) and you’re dash-1. You can’t do too much about it sometimes. If you’re in on the minus, you’re still trying to win the game.”

Karlsson’s defensive game leaves a lot to be desired, but the 20-year-old Swede insists it’s getting better.

“I think I’ve improved a lot, defensively, and still I’m minus I don’t know how much,” he said. “Obviously, I need to be a bit stronger in front of the net, and things like that. Just got to try and play smart. I’m not a big guy. So you try to take the puck away from the opponent, work my stick a lot. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. We play against pretty good players too. It’s tough.”

These are the cold, dark days for the Senators, both as a team and, in some cases, individually.

You might want to remember that when they get back to the other end of the standings, it’ll likely be Karlsson leading the way.

Follow the leader

The way Craig Anderson handles the puck, Cory Clouston says, is like “having an extra player the forecheckers have to worry about.” That is, probably better than any goalie the Senators have had. Anderson is also becoming a leader on the team, according to his coach. “Every time there’s a time out, when he comes to the bench he does have some input,” said Clouston. “Constructive comments. Positive comments. He just has a bit of a leadership quality about him that’s nice to have from a goaltender.”

$256 payoff in 50-50

How small was the actual crowd? Well, the 50-50 pot was a grand total of $256. Honest.

Things I think I think

As a 20-year-old in his first season with the Capitals, Sergei Gonchar played just 31 games. Had he worked a full season, he was on pace to score less than six goals and fewer than 20 points. The next season he had 15 goals, 41 points and was a plus-25. In his first season with the Penguins, he had 58 points and was a minus-13. The next season he had 67 points and was a minus-5. The Senators expect Gonchar (six goals, 16 assists, minus-16) to be better next season, and so does he. “It’s always been the case. Maybe I’m one of those people who adjust a little longer than usual,” Gonchar said Thursday morning. “It’s a good thing I have two more years here.” But you’ll be better next year, Sergei? Promise? “Yeah, I think so,” he said. “I still have 20 more games so I expect them to be better (than the first 58).” ... Great guy, Sportsnet’s Ian Mendes, but out with four MALE hockey writers at an Irish pub in downtown Atlanta called Meehans, he should not be ordering a glass of white wine, turkey burger and side of spinach. Just makes us look bad.

Sign of the times

Just four months past his 23rd birthday, Nick Foligno has now played 251 games wearing the Ottawa jersey, and while eight of his teammates have suited up for more NHL games, only Daniel Alfredsson (1056), Chris Phillips (927), Chris Neil (641) and Jason Spezza (508) have had the centurion on plastered across their chest more often. 

“I’ve worked hard, obviously, to play in this league and I’m proud of the fact I’ve played a lot of games,” said Foligno. “I think for me now, at this age, I need to take that next step in becoming a better player, in more of a leadership role.”

Eminem?

What does it mean when the man operating the karaoke machine at a place called the Metro Cafe tells you not to bother trying an Eminem song if you haven’t got the “breathing” right?


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