Karlsson gets his chance
Andreas Karlsson has spent the better part of his two seasons with Tampa Bay as a third- or fourth-line center. He has been a bit more involved this season as he has gotten more and more penalty kill time. But his big break apparently has come as he, for a while, anyway, gets to start as a wing on a line with center Brad Richards.
"It's my chance,'' Karlsson said. "I'd better take it.''
The question is, does Karlsson have what it takes. He was one of Sweden's top scorers the season before the Lightning signed him as a free agent. He has proved to be responsible defensively but without much offensive pop. In 18 games entering tonight's matchup with the Thrashers, he has zero goals and one assist. So, what makes coach John Tortorella believe Karlsson can add an offensive spark? Well, for one thing, Tortorella said, Karlsson had three scoring chances Saturday against the Capitals on a night when the team's top players didn't do much better.
"That's why I think he's improved, and that's why I think he ends up getting scoring chances,'' Tortorella said. "He's willing to play in the areas more. He's willing to win the battles in our end zone.''
Richards' line has been a grand experiment the past two seasons trying to find wings who can finish. This season began with Jan Hlavac and Michel Ouellet, and both were huge disappointments. Hlavac was demoted to a line with Jason Ward and Nick Tarnasky. Ouellet was down to the fourth line before separating his left shoulder.
"We just haven't gotten enough from other people with Richy and I think I've waited long enough for things to happen,'' Tortorella said. "Jani is going to go onto a third line and work on his defensive responsibilities and do the little things and maybe some scoring will come off him there and we'll see how it goes.''
As for Karlsson, he said he cannot think about scoring, per se.
"It's focusing on the right things, trying to play simply, concentrating on the details,'' he said.
Do that, he said, and the scoring should take care of itself.''