Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson has been cleared for contact and is attempting to return this season, according to multiple reports at the team's morning skate on Friday afternoon.
Karlsson sustained a lacerated Achilles tendon against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Feb. 13. At the time, it was believed Karlsson's season was effectively over even if the Senators managed to advance deep into the Stanley Cup playoffs.
On Friday morning, the defenseman dressed for the team's annual photo and then proceeded to lead the team in stretches. The Senators tapped their sticks on the ice as a sign of respect for his return. From there, Karlsson was able to participate in the practice as an extra defenseman, his first with the team since the injury.
Senators general manager Bryan Murray stated Karlsson is 100 percent and his ability to get back into game shape will determine his return.
Following practice, Karlsson stated he felt good and didn't experience any pain. Most importantly, he said he wouldn't jeopardize next season by coming back too early. As of Friday afternoon, he has no timeline for a return.
Considering how important Karlsson is to the construction of the Senators roster, re-injury is the No. 1 concern. The 22-year-old likely has a considerable amount of hockey left in him. A premature return has the potential to negatively impact his future.
Of course, that is an extreme concern. There are instances of players who return early and realize they need more time to heal.
New Jersey Devils forward Travis Zajac experienced a full rupture of his Achilles and returned to action after four months of rehab. He was only able to play in eight games before sitting out an additional two months.
How Karlsson fares obviously remains to be seen.