Karlsson Thrives in Bigger Role

NEWARK, N.J. — With Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen out of the lineup the past two games because of a mysterious illness, rookie William Karlsson and second-year pro Alexander Wennberg have moved into bigger roles.

Wennberg has centered the No. 2 line with veterans Scott Hartnell and Cam Atkinson, which accounted for two goals in Tuesday’s 3-1 victory at New Jersey.

Karlsson has centered Boone Jenner and Matt Calvert, a line that also scored. But it’s Karlsson’s gritty play — hits, winning pucks on the boards, blocked shots, etc. — that has stood out.

“I didn’t even know who the hell they were,” coach John Tortorella said of the two young Swedes. “I love it. They’re kids. I’ve put them in some pretty crucial spots early on here.

“I’m putting them in those spots because I think they deserve it right now. I’m very impressed with them.”

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Wennberg began to emerge as a solid two-way player last season, and his defensive anticipation remains brilliant. Faceoffs, however, are a challenge: he’s 17 of 45 (37.8 percent).

Karlsson has been more of a revelation. The Blue Jackets acquired him in March in a deal that sent defenseman James Wisniewski to Anaheim.

“I came out of the summer stronger and faster, just getting a year older,” Karlsson said. “I can feel it on the ice, the difference.”

Karlsson is speaking in a way that will endear him to his new coach, too.

Asked about blocking shots, he said: “Of course, it hurts to take a puck. But the pain goes away when the guys give you pats on the back at the bench.”

Asked if he prefers playing left wing or center, he said: “I’ve always played center. But if Torts asks me to play goaltender, I’ll go get some pads.”