OTTAWA, Ont. -- There was no denying the sense of excitement as Erik Karlsson took to the ice Friday morning for the Ottawa Senators' practice.
Karlsson suffered a 70 per cent tear to his left Achilles Feb. 13 in a game against Pittsburgh Penguins when Penguins forward Matt Cooke stepped on the back of Karlsson's leg.
Karlsson was expected to miss the remainder of the season following the injury, but his return now seems like a real possibility.
The 22-year-old took part in practice drills and didn't seem to be showing any signs of discomfort.
"Even if it wasn't the hardest practice in the world it was still a good thing to do and it gave me some perspective on where I am right now," Karlsson said. "There's not a timeline. I don't think anyone expects anything more than trying to skate as much as possible and getting that normal feeling back in my leg again. The more I skate the better off I'm going to feel.
"When the time comes it's probably going to be a decision that's going to be made the same day."
While the Senators would love nothing more than to have the defending Norris Trophy winner back in the lineup, Karlsson said he wouldn't rush his return.
"Every injured player wants to get back as quick as possible, but I'm not going to put myself in a situation where I don't feel comfortable and I'm not going to jeopardize anything going into next season and I'm not going to make any stupid decisions," he said. "I don't think anyone working around me either is going to give me any bad advice. We just have to wait and see how it feels going forward practising with the team."
Karlsson was estimated to be out a minimum of three to four months after surgery, and as many as five to six.
Friday made exactly nine weeks since he underwent surgery and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that few would have expected him to be back on skates at this point, let alone taking part in practice.
"I think early in my injury it was tough to say how it was going to go and I couldn't really do much, but I think the last couple of weeks it's been progressing every day and even though it's very small things it still feels better and more normal and everything is starting to work more," Karlsson said. "That's why it's so tough to set a timetable, because I don't think anyone has been around this type of injury before either, so it's just going to be day-to-day and as long as I keep feeling better and not worse it's a good thing.
"If I wake up tomorrow and it feels as it is today or better it's a good sign. It shows that I can keep doing what I'm doing and just push forward."
-- The Canadian Press