OTTAWA — Maybe the Rangers have worn him down, or maybe Erik Karlsson’s body finally is just giving in.
Either way, the Blueshirts have found a way to somewhat marginalize the Senators’ superlative captain in this second-round series, so much so that Ottawa coach Guy Boucher told him to stay in the locker room for the third period of Game 4 on Thursday, when the Rangers were up 3-0 en route to a 4-1 win.
Karlsson has been dealing with two hairline fractures in his left heel since he broke the foot while blocking a shot against the Flyers on March 28. Boucher reiterated at his team’s New York hotel Friday morning that he expects Karlsson to play Game 5 on Saturday afternoon at Canadian Tire Centre, the best-of-seven contest knotted at two games apiece.
But no matter Karlsson’s physical status, the Rangers know his talent can change a game very quickly.
“We’re going play him the same way,” coach Alain Vigneault said Friday in Tarrytown before his team left for Canada’s capital. “Hurt or not, he’s a real good player that is jumping up in the attack every opportunity he gets. We’re going to continue to obviously limit his opportunities. That part is not going to change.”
The Rangers have blocked 82 shots through the first four games, the 20.5 average well above their regular-season average 15.17. The blocks also have been used as offensive tools. A blocked shot by Tanner Glass in Game 4 sprung a odd-man rush that resulted in Oscar Lindberg’s first goal.
“Obviously, you like to block some shots if you can,” forward Mats Zuccarello said. “I think the whole team’s mindset is to do what you can to win, and blocking shots is a part of it. I think we all have that mindset.”
The Senators have noticed.
“They do block a lot of shots, you have to give these guys credit,” Boucher said. “You can see the experience. … It is tough to get pucks to the net, tougher than any opponent we’ve had all…