KANATA, Ont. -- It was an especially happy morning at the Ottawa Senators' morning skate Thursday, as four players discovered that they were All-Stars, according to the voters.
Erik Karlsson, Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek were voted in as starters for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, with Toronto's Dion Phaneuf and the Bruins' Tim Thomas rounding out the lineup. The news was delivered to Ottawa players via the Scotiabank Place scoreboard, as coach Paul MacLean directed the team to look up and check out the news.
Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson led the voting with 939,951 votes, garnering 42,536 more votes than Daniel Alfredsson, the Ottawa captain. Jason Spezza is also among the First Six, joined by surprise addition Milan Michalek, who used a stunning last-day push to oust Toronto's Phil Kessel by 42,144 votes for the final forward spot. Kessel had been among the top-three in forward voting throughout the balloting process.
SOG: 98 | +/-: -6
"It's a great feeling. I'm really excited to be going," he said. "I didn't think I was going to (slide in) so I'm pretty excited. It's going to be my first All-Star Game so I don't know what to expect. It's especially good because it's at home and in front of our fans. To be with all these great players is going to be a new experience for me, and I think I'll have some fun. It's been one of my dreams."
Alfredsson, who is no stranger to the All-Star experience after playing in five of the big games prior to this season, was happy to see Michalek make it in, and thinks it's a credit to the Sens' play this year.
"It's awesome. Thanks to everyone who voted," Alfredsson said. "It's a big treat for all of us. And to see Milan get in -- and he deserves to be after the start he had -- we're really looking forward to this. I hope that's part of the reason we got elected – we've played pretty good and surprised a lot of people so far. You look at the guys who got in, they've had great starts to the season."
Spezza, who played alongside Alfredsson in the 2008 All-Star Game, was touched by amount of support shown by local fans.
"I'm really excited and appreciative," Spezza said. "To get four of us voted in is pretty special and it shows how much the fans are behind us. It's quite an honor to be voted in by your own fans and it shows how passionate they are about (the All-Star Game) coming to the city. People have been really excited to watch us play, they've rewarded us by supporting us and, in turn, we've been trying to give them some good hockey. It's been a good year to this point and this is a great way to cap off the first half."
"People have been really excited to watch us play, they've rewarded us by supporting us and, in turn, we've been trying to give them some good hockey. It's been a good year to this point and this is a great way to cap off the first half." -- Jason Spezza
"I didn't vote, but I had a bunch of friends and family who did, though," Karlsson said. "My dad made two e-mail accounts just so he could vote for all of (the Ottawa players)."
Karlsson also insisted that despite potentially being placed on a pairing with a noted rival in Toronto's Phaneuf, he'll play nice.
"I'll pass (Dion) the puck," he said with a laugh. "He's probably a good guy. Even if we play hard on the ice and maybe say a few nice words to each other, it doesn't really matter once you take off your skates and go do something else."
The League still needs to name 36 more players and appoint captains, who will then draft the All-Star teams that face off at Scotiabank Place on Jan. 29.