A Swede Sen-sation

Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency)

Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson. (TONY CALDWELL/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:22 PM ET

OTTAWA - Erik Karlsson has a chance to be one Super Swede.

While the Senators’ blueliner has already rewritten the franchise record book for points and is one goal shy of breaking Steve Duchesne’s mark (20) for goals by a defenceman, he is closing in on another significant mark.

With five games left in the regular season, Karlsson, who has 76 points, is only five points from breaking Nicklas Lidstrom’s all-time record of 80 in one season by a Swedish defenceman, set in 2005-06 with the Red Wings.

Karlsson, 21, has already moved into a third-place tie among Swedes with former Maple Leafs great Borje Salming, who had 76 points in 1977-78 and set the mark with 78 points in 1976-77 until Lidstrom broke it.

“(Getting the record) would be a great thing to accomplish and would feel pretty good to do, actually,” said Karlsson, who enjoyed Thursday off. “If I get there, it’s probably something I’m going to take a lot of pride in.

“Right now, it’s still a race for the playoffs. We’ve still got to win two or three more games. If we do that, I don’t really care if I stop at 76 points.”

The record would be significant for Karlsson.

As a kid and a defenceman, he grew up idolizing Lidstrom, was thrilled to meet him at the NHL all-star game last year in Raleigh and received one of his sticks from the 2010 Olympics as a gift from captain Daniel Alfredsson.

As for Salming, he was one of the pioneers for Swedish hockey when he joined the Leafs in 1973. Karlsson didn’t get to see him play, but he knows who Salming is and appreciates what he did for his country.

“Every Swede who draws an NHL salary should send a portion to Borje Salming,” broadcaster Harry Neale once said.

Karlsson was born in 1990. That’s the same year Salming was wrapping up his 17-year NHL career with the Red Wings before playing parts of three seasons with AIK in the Swedish Elite League.

“(Lidstrom and Salming) are great players and have been for such a long time,” said Karlsson, who met Salming during a trip to Toronto earlier this season. “To be able to be up there is such a great accomplishment.

“It’s something I want to keep doing for a number of years, not just this year. If I get (the record), it’s obviously going to feel really good.”

Even Lidstrom, 41, the Wings captain who was 35 years old when he scored 80 points, marvels at the way Karlsson has played this season.

“He’s been producing the whole year, he’s very skilled, he plays so many minutes. He’s getting better and better,” Lidstrom told the Detroit News.

“At that age, it’s impressive what he’s done. He’s a smart player, he’s a good skater, sees the ice real well. Obviously, he’s been producing the whole season.”

Lidstrom said he believes Karlsson certainly has to be a top candidate for the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenceman.

“He has to be in the mix. He’s playing so well,” said the six-time Norris winner. “He’s a major reason Ottawa got off to such a good start and they’ve played so well,” said Lidstrom.

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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