Erik Karlsson has made something incredibly clear since coming to the San Jose Sharks: He's focusing on the present and what he can do to help his new team win games. No dwelling on the past. No worrying about the future. Just focusing on the tasks he and the Sharks have in front of them.
During his big press conference Friday in Ottawa ahead of his first game against the Senators since being traded to San Jose, he echoed that exact same mentality.
The decorated defenseman is gearing up to play his first game against the Senators – the team that drafted him with the 15th overall pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He's made four All-Star appearances and won two Norris Trophies through his career, all while wearing a Senators' sweater.
On Saturday he will return to the Canadian Tire Center, and while he's known the days were winding down to this game, he's still wants to stay as present as possible.
"I'm not going to lie and say I didn't know this was coming up and that I haven't been thinking about it," he said when he addressed the media after the Sharks practiced at the University of Ottawa rink on Friday. "But at the same time, I've been trying to stay focused on the tasks that we've had at hand and the games that we've played before this game."
Karlsson told reporters earlier in the week he preferred to reserve all talks about his return to Ottawa for just before the Sharks' contest with the Senators. Then, as expected, throngs of media were present at the university ice rink when the Sharks practiced ahead of their Saturday matinee game against the team Karlsson captained for four seasons.
"As of right now I feel fairly calm," Karlsson observed. "A little anxious, and obviously it feels a little bit different."
Karlsson admitted he doesn't know how he was going to react when he takes the ice at the CTC on Saturday, but he's hoping the reaction will be positive.
"I don't really know what to expect, to be honest with you," Karlsson admitted. "I think it's going to be a little bit emotional. How it's going to play out, I'm not really sure. I haven't really tried to overthink it too much."
When asked how he would respond to a standing ovation from Senators fans, the defenseman smiled as he reiterated he would take care of that in the moment.
"That's one of those things – I try and not think about that. I know it's coming up. I know it's there. Whatever happens in the moment is going to happen, and I'm going to try and enjoy it," Karlsson said.
It's no surprise the blueliner wants to keep his focus on helping the team he's currently on. The Sharks have dropped the first three contests of a five-game roadie and are battling to find better success with their all-around game plan. Karlsson has proved even through just a little over 20 games into the season that his goals are not individual ones – he's on a mission to help the team win games.
But even with his in-the-moment mentality, Karlsson admitted he holds a place in his heart for playing at the CTC.
"I've had nothing but great memories there and I'm again looking forward to creating more," Karlsson said. "Tomorrow afternoon is going to be another one of those great memories."