Flames brace for Sharks, Karlsson
The 28-year-old defenseman from Landsbro, Sweden, would like nothing more than to carry his momentum into New Year’s Eve when his Sharks (21-12-7) take on the Calgary Flames (23-12-4) in a battle of the top two teams in the Pacific Division at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
“We have a tough stretch coming up here the next few games,” said Karlsson after tallying a goal and three assists to help lead the Sharks to a 7-4 road victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. “We’re going to have to play at the top of our level to be able to compete with the teams that we’re playing.
“Now, we’ve just got to go into Calgary and have the mentality that we’re going to win that game, too, and play to the best of our ability and clean some things up from (Saturday) and take the good things with us.”
Karlsson sat out San Jose’s previous two games as a result of being suspended for an illegal check to the head of Los Angeles Kings forward Austin Wagner in the second period of a 3-2 overtime loss at home on Dec. 22.
“It’s nice to be back,” said Karlsson, who has put up three goals and 27 assists in 30 games with the Sharks this season after playing his first nine NHL campaigns with the Ottawa Senators. “It’s never fun to be out of the lineup, especially for the reason that I was out for. Sometimes it’s good to watch the games from afar, too. You figure a few things out. I was excited to get back (in the lineup) and I did everything I can to stay in it.”
San Jose coach Peter DeBoer was also happy to have Karlsson back on the blue line for the Sharks.
“You can see his impact on the game, on our team, on the players around him,” DeBoer said. “You take him for granted a little bit. When he’s out, you realize the hole there is there. Every week he’s getting more comfortable here.”
“I thought we faded a little bit as the game went along, didn’t have the same jump, but we skated much better here tonight than we did in Winnipeg and I expect us to skate a lot better Monday, too,” Calgary coach Bill Peters said following the OT loss to the Canucks.
Despite the loss, the Flames still sit tied atop the Western Conference standings at 50 points with the Jets (24-12-2), who have a game in hand.
“We’ve played a lot of good hockey this year, but there’s a long way to go and as a group we feel like we’ve let it slip over the last few games,” Calgary captain Mark Giordano told the team website. “We’ve got to get back to details, be a lot sharper on the defensive side of things and we’ll be fine.
“We’ve put ourselves in good position. Now, we either let the pack make up ground and catch us over the next 20 or we ramp up, take off and solidify what we’ve worked for to get to this point. We’re looking to solidify — to take off.”