PITTSBURGH — There’s not much question that the Pittsburgh Penguins are a better team with Erik Karlsson in their lineup.
Probably quite a bit better, actually.
There’s also not much question that, with Karlsson and Kris Letang, have one of the better 1-2 punches among NHL defensemen, too.
But there is at least one question that conceivably could arise in the months ahead: Can Eriksson and Letang, both right-handers and alpha defensemen for most of their careers, co-exist when there are only so many minutes in a game, so relatively little time to work on a No. 1 power play?
At this point, there is absolutely no indication that there will be any friction between the two. Then again, they’ve only been on the same team for a few days, and won’t share a locker room until sometime next month.
Karlsson was in a similar situation for most of his time in San Jose, where Brent Burns was his teammate before being traded to Carolina in 2022.
And while there were reports of considerable tension between the two, Karlsson was adamant Wednesday that those were not accurate.
“I don’t think we had a strained relationship,” Karlsson said while meeting with the Pittsburgh media at PPG Paints Arena. “We’re actually pretty good friends, personally. I just think that when you don’t do well as a team, collectively, things don’t tend to work out for anyone and it didn’t for a long time. It’s just unfortunate that it played out that way.
“I don’t foresee it to be any issue whatsoever coming in here, where you have a lot of strong players who have been here for a long time and have had extreme success. I’m excited to be able to work alongside guys like that.”
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