SAN JOSE – When asked by the media if Erik Karlsson would finally 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 winner will, in fact, be back in the lineup on Saturday evening when the Sharks close out their regular season campaign against the Colorado Avalanche. DeBoer told the press he thinks it's important for Karlsson to get a tune-up game in before the playoffs get underway next week, although "not critical" as the team's main focus is to make sure he doesn't reinjure himself.
"We're not doing it at the expense of rushing him in any way," the head 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 on Saturday evening. The goal of penciling back into the lineup ahead of the playoffs getting underway is, as you may 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."
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Karlsson has missed the last 17 games after leaving a February 26 contest against the Boston Bruins. No. 65 has told the media this injury is different from the lower-body ailment he sustained earlier in the season. Despite missing over a month, he is still ranked third among all Sharks' skaters with 42 assists.
From the looks of Sharks' morning skate, it looks like Karlsson will be reunited with Brenden Dillon on the blue line.