Karlsson rises to his own defence

Washington Capitals centre Marcus Johansson (right) scores on Ottawa Senators goalie Alex Auld (35)...

Washington Capitals centre Marcus Johansson (right) scores on Ottawa Senators goalie Alex Auld (35) as Senators defencemen Filip Kuba (17) and Erik Karlsson (65) try to defend during their NHL hockey game in Washington, Oct. 15, 2011. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

Don Brennan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 AM ET

WASHINGTON — There are some things Erik Karlsson is more than willing to change about himself.

Like his marital status. The slick Senators defenceman proposed to Therese, his girlfriend of three years, this past summer. They’re getting hitched next off-season.

At some point before then, the 21-year-old Karlsson will be fine with getting a haircut. Right now, his flow does grow. All the way down is neck.

“I always wanted long hair,” Karlsson said after Saturday morning’s skate at the Verizon Center. “I’m getting married next summer, so I’m going to get it cut. But that’s why I’m saving now. I might not be able to have long hair after I’m married.”

Therese will make you go short?

“No,” said Karlsson. “I might lose it.”

Karlsson is also willing to change his body structure. Like he did last summer. He checked into camp at 6 feet, 180 lbs.

“Can’t you see? I’m jacked,” he joked with a reporter who asked if he got bigger. “I put on a couple of pounds.”

What Karlsson is not willing to do, however, is change his style.

Entering Saturday’s games, he led all NHLers in assists (six), power-play points (five) and power-play assists (five). He was also tied with Kris Letang for the lead in defencemen scoring leaders with six points.

Yet bring up Karlsson’s name and early surge of production and invariably somebody chimes in with a “yeah, but ... ” What follows is commentary about his defensive play, and the opinion that he is a liability in his own zone.

Never mind that former Senators assistant coach Greg Carvel swore the team’s penalty killing became significantly better when Karlsson and his “quick stick” were added to the unit. Because of his slight stature and giveaways that often occur when he’s trying to be creative, No. 65 often has Senators followers holding their breath when he’s battling a big winger or carrying the puck inside his own blue line.

In his own defence, Karlsson says his defensive play isn’t that bad, that he’s learning and getting better all the time. But he also doesn’t care if his words don’t convince anybody to change their opinion.

“I know I’m not a bad defensive player,” said Karlsson, who had the 889th best (or third worst) plus-minus in the league last season at minus-30 and was a minus-3 after the first four games of the 2011-12 campaign. “As long as I know I’m fine back there, people can write whatever they want about me, and tell me I can only play offence or whatever. It doesn’t really bother me at all.”

STARTS AND STOPS

The Senators had Roman Hamrlik rated ahead of Alexei Yashin for their first draft in 1992, but they wound up losing the flip with Tampa and having to settle for the No. 2. Saturday in Washington, Hamrlik played his 1,315th NHL game, most ever by a Czech. But who’s with Carol Alt, eh? ... Bruce Boudreau now has 193 career wins, pulling him one ahead of Ron Wilson for the second most by a Capitals coach. Topping the list, of course, is Senators GM Bryan Murray, who won 343 behind the Washington plank ... Looked like Paul MacLean decided to go from using seven defencemen to four early on, as Sergei Gonchar was paired with Chris Phillips while David Rundblad and Jared Cowen watched from the bench. That started to change when the Senators fell behind ... Stephane Da Costa’s visit to Washington included time with a barber. Between the morning skate and climbing on the bus to go to the rink for the game, the rookie centre clearly decided he wanted to look like a Senators goalie.

BETWEEN PERIODS

The seal has been broken. Nikita Filatov finally scored his first goal as a Senator, then added another, plus an assist, then was robbed of completing his hat trick in overtime, in the B-Sens’ 5-4 loss Friday. “It’s always nice to get a goal right away,” Filatov, who was demoted by Ottawa Thursday, told Joy Lindsay of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin. “It helps you a lot, especially because that was the first one for me on the season. I can’t say I was under pressure or something ... just happy that it went in.”


Videos

Photos