Erik Karlsson Set to Return to Sharks' Lineup to Close Regular Season

SAN JOSE -- When asked by the media if Erik Karlsson finally would return to the lineup, Sharks bench boss Peter DeBoer couldn't help but chuckle as he proclaimed: "The time is nigh!"

The two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenseman will, in fact, be back in the lineup Saturday night when the Sharks close their regular-season campaign against the Colorado Avalanche.

DeBoer told the press he believes it's important for Karlsson to get a tune-up game before the playoffs start next week, although "not critical" as the Sharks' main focus is to make sure the blueliner doesn't reinjure himself.

"We're not doing it at the expense of rushing him in any way," the coach said. "I think that was at the forefront. If we had to mimic scrimmages on Tuesday before we start on Wednesday, or Wednesday before we start on Thursday, we would've happily done that, too. I think he's ready for this step, and it's nice to get him back in there."

Karlsson himself agreed he was ready for this step in his rehab.

"We're on the timeline that we expected," he told NBC Sports California. "I think in the beginning, we were hoping it would move quicker. But this is the realistic time, and we're happy about that."

Karlsson told the media there's no exact plan for how many minutes he'll play. The goal of penciling back into the lineup ahead of the playoffs start is, as you might expect, to get his legs under him and get up to speed with the rest of the team.

"Hopefully it feels good right away, and it's not going to be an issue at all," he said. "Every time it's different when you come back from a certain injury, and I've never come back from one like this before. It's late in the year, and I've played a lot of hockey this year, so I should be up to speed that way."

[RELATED: Many questions remain ahead of Sharks' regular-season finale]

Karlsson has missed the last 17 games after leaving a Feb. 26 contest against the Boston Bruins. He has told the media this injury is different from the lower-body ailment he sustained earlier in the season. Despite missing more than a month, he's still ranked third among all Sharks skaters with 42 assists.

From the looks of Sharks' morning skate, it appears Karlsson will be reunited with Brenden Dillon on the blue line against the Avs.

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