By Allan Muir
If Ottawa's fans thought their team's situation was bleak after it lost Jason Spezza last month, they learned on Wednesday night that things can always get worse.
Erik Karlsson, the defending Norris Trophy-winner and one of the world's top players, suffered a laceration to his left Achilles tendon in the Sens' game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. It will require surgery to repair, and keep him out of the lineup indefinitely.
The incident occurred late in the second period when Karlsson and Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke chased the puck into the corner together. The two collided, and Cooke's left skate scraped down on Karlsson's leg. It was hard to watch.
It's tough to see anybody in that kind of agony. And it's a very tough break for Karlsson, who I had picked as the early leader in this year's Norris race. He's been sensational, leading the Sens with six goals and playing up to 30 minutes a night. The Sens may have been able to overcome Spezza's loss. But take away Karlsson, too, and they're a lottery team. Here's hoping for a quick recovery.
There's going to be a lot of debate about what exactly happened on the play because of who was involved. Cooke has been an exemplary citizen for more than a season now, but he'll never outlive the reputation he built during 11 years of lawlessness.
If you're a Sens fan, chances are you saw malicious intent on the play, with Cooke twirling his mustache and cackling as he lifted his skate blade then slashed deep into Karlsson's ankle. Me, I don't think so. Awful, unfortunate...but it looked like Cooke was simply trying to pin Karlsson with his leg. A horrible result, but purely accidental from my viewpoint.
"The play... was reviewed by the NHL Department of Player Safety in New York. There was nothing illegal about the sequence," sources told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Sad thing is that it might have been preventable with a $30 pair of Kevlar socks -- a level of protection a number of NHLers currently employ. Remind me again why these aren't mandatory?