Karlsson’s mentality isn’t a reaction to witnessing Minnesota Wild backup goaltender Josh Harding be called upon to replace Niklas Backstrom as the team’s starter less than 30 minutes prior to Tuesday’s game because of an injury. Karlsson always prepares physically and mentally to enter any game in which he’s the backup.
“Just train good and prepare and rest like you’re supposed to play and try to be focused,” said Karlsson after Thursday’s practice. “I just try to be ready. I’ve been a backup for a couple years, so I’ve been thrown in there in games. I think I have a lot of experience about that. Hopefully, nothing happens. But if something happens, I’ll be ready to step in and I’ll feel good.”
The 29-year-old Karlsson was acquired by the Blackhawks from the Calgary Flames for a seventh-round draft pick in January. He spent most of the season with the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. He was recalled by the Blackhawks in February due to an injury to Corey Crawford and backed up Ray Emery for three games. Karlsson was recently recalled again for the playoffs due to an injury to Emery, who could return later in the series.
Karlsson doesn’t have any playoff experience, but he has played in 26 career NHL games and has been asked eight times to come off the bench and play. It’s those experiences Karlsson would turn to if he had to play for Crawford on Friday.
“Obviously we didn’t make the playoffs in Calgary, [but] I’ve been thrown in games in the regular season,” Karlsson said. “It [went] pretty good when I got the chance. You just have to battle. You maybe don’t have the best feeling, but you have to battle it, work hard. After a while in the game, you settle in and feel good again.
“Obviously it’s a little tougher to just get thrown in there in the second period or the first period. But it’s part of the game. You have to be ready. No excuses. If it happens, I have to be ready and I will.”
Karlsson thought Harding handled his situation nearly perfect on Tuesday. Harding made 35 saves in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime win in Game 1.
“He played good,” Karlsson said. “He’s a good goalie. I think he looked a little bit tense in the beginning, but after a couple saves he looked real comfortable and played real good. He did a good job, managed to relax and play his game. It was impressive.”