Red Wings-Senators Preview

The Associated Press

Erik Karlsson returned from the Olympics with a silver medal.

Now, he's aiming to get the Ottawa Senators back to the playoffs.

Karlsson looks to pick up where he left off and help the Senators take the season series from the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.

Karlsson's eight points tied the United States' Phil Kessel for the most at the Sochi Games, but Sweden fell short of gold by losing 3-0 to Canada, coached by Detroit's Mike Babcock.

The 2012 Norris Trophy winner is now focused on providing a spark for Ottawa (26-22-11), which is three points back of Detroit for the final wild-card position in the Eastern Conference.

"We have 23 more games to go and we're fighting for a playoff spot," Karlsson told the team's official website. "Every time you go away, as nice as it is, it's always nice to come home as well. I'm looking forward to start playing hockey here again, it feels like the vibe is good in the room and we're looking forward to the last stretch here.

"That's what you play for, for 82 games, is to get into the playoffs and have a chance. It feels like everybody's on the same page, we're going to get there somehow."

That would likely require Karlsson to continue his impressive season. He leads all defensemen with 55 points, getting 17 in 16 games prior to the break.

Karlsson has managed at least one point in each of his five career meetings with the Red Wings (27-20-12) and seven overall. He assisted on a goal by Mika Zibanejad in a 4-2 home loss Dec. 1.

Karlsson had four assists over the previous two meetings, both wins in Detroit.

Daniel Alfredsson, a teammate of Karlsson on Sweden, is looking to even the season series as he returns to Ottawa for the second time since leaving via free agency over the summer.

The star right wing had a goal and an assist in the December win as part of an emotional return for the former face of the franchise. He spent 17 seasons with the Senators, the last 13 as captain.

Alfredsson and the Red Wings returned from the Olympic break Wednesday, and he had an assist before Gustav Nyquist scored with 28 seconds left in overtime of a 2-1 win at Montreal.

Detroit's success against the Canadiens included outshooting them 30-20, including 9-2 in the second period.

That stifling defensive play, which Babcock used with Canada in Sochi, is expected to continue.

"(Babcock) always stressed that we play this way," said Johan Franzen, who returned from a concussion to assist on both goals Wednesday. "This is how you win games.

"Especially coming down the stretch here and going into the playoffs, this is how you have to play hockey. You've got to track like never before, and always be above their guys and make it small for them so you can create turnovers. Then you give your team a lot of opportunities."

That scheme could be even more important with Henrik Zetterberg - the team leader with 16 goals and 48 points - potentially out for the rest of the regular season after injuring his back at the Olympics.

Ottawa's Bobby Ryan, who was left off the U.S. team, has three goals against Detroit this season. Despite leading the Senators with 21 goals, he has only three in his last 18 games.

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