Karlsson on display as Senators host Lightning (Feb 22, 2018)
OTTAWA -- When Erik Karlsson arrives at Canadian Tire Centre on Thursday, he'll almost surely end up going straight to the hometeam's dressing room as usual.
But with the Ottawa Senators captain suddenly being prominently mentioned in trade rumors, there's also plenty of speculation he could soon be suiting up with Thursday's visitors.
If the Senators deal Karlsson, it will be because he is expected to demand top dollar when they are allowed to start talking to him about a new contract in July -- one year before his current deal expires -- and the Senators are in retooling mode.
But if the Tampa Bay Lightning -- Thursday's opponents -- want him for two playoff runs at his current wage, they have until Monday to work out what would likely be a complex trade involving many pieces.
The Senators (21-28-10) are expected to make some moves before the deadline in a season that has seen them win only seven of 29 road games, the latest setback being a 3-2 shootout loss in Chicago on Wednesday.
"We definitely could have come up with the win," said Ottawa coach Guy Boucher in what has become his routine of searching for positives. "So it's a hard fought game. I like the way we battled back, we came back twice. So it's a very good night. Our players played good. Second, third and overtime was great, and I think we've just got to keep that up."
The Lightning (40-17-3) had the advantage of resting in Ottawa on Wednesday night, while the Senators were playing three periods, overtime and seven shootout rounds a two-hour flight away.
The Lightning enjoyed the same scenario when they played the Capitals in Washington on Tuesday. The night before, the Capitals were in Buffalo to play the Sabres.
"The big thing for us is we knew they played yesterday," Tampa coach Jon Cooper told reporters after his team scored a 4-2 victory over the Capitals. "The key for that is you've got to get the lead. And that's what we wanted to do."
The Lightning led 3-0 after one period, allowed the Caps to creep to within one, then wound up with a 4-2 victory.
"We know where we want to get to," said Cooper, whose team is in a Presidents Trophy battle with the likes of Boston, Vegas, Nashville, Winnipeg and Toronto. "This is my fifth year in the league and there's not a whole lot of Ws (in Washington). This has been a tough place to play for us.
"It's a confidence builder, that we can go into tough rinks and get wins. It'll be good for our group."
Despite being situated at different ends of the standings, the Senators have played the Lightning tough this season. The Lightning prevailed 4-3 in overtime at home on Dec. 21, but the Senators beat them 6-3 at Canadian Tire Centre on Jan. 6.
Expected to make his return from a finger injury that has kept him out of 10 games will be Senators winger Bobby Ryan, who the Senators would also like to move if they can find a taker for a contract that still has four years left on it.
With Mike Condon tending goal for the Senators on Wednesday, Craig Anderson will get the call between the pipes. Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who was victimized by the Senators in January, has started three straight and nine of 10 in February.