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Alfredsson 'an inspiration' for Swedish teammates

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson's decision about the future is also being anxiously awaited in Sweden, where his status has become the talk of the 2012 world hockey championship (Andre Ringuette/HHOF-IIHF Images).

Jakob Silfverberg can't wait to get his future started with the Ottawa Senators.

He hopes the greatest player in modern franchise history will still be around to help provide some guidance along the way.

But the Senators — and an entire nation, for that matter — still anxiously await word from captain Daniel Alfredsson, who has yet to decide whether he'll retire after the 2012 IIHF World Hockey Championship or return to Ottawa for a 17th National Hockey League season.

The 21-year-old Silfverberg, one of the Senators' top forward prospects and a young man expected to make the Ottawa roster this fall, knows what he'd like to see.

"Of course, it would mean a lot if he continues," Silfverberg told the Expressen newspaper in Sweden. "He is one of the world's best hockey players in my eyes. He's really good both as a hockey player and a person ... I think he inspires many, especially me. He is an inspiration."

Silfverberg and Alfredsson have been linemates at times during the 2012 worlds for a Swedish team that is preparing to face the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals on Thursday in Stockholm (2:15 p.m. ET). The former, who suited up for Games 6 and 7 of the Senators' opening-round playoff series against the New York Rangers last month, called it an "amazingly exciting" experience.

"It was fun to play with (Alfredsson)," said Silfverberg. "I was hoping for a chance to play with him (in the NHL playoffs), but I never got it. I got to play with him here instead. He sees everything and then some. He's really fun to play with."

Alfredsson's impending decision about his future has become the talk of the world championship, especially in the Swedish capital, which is the co-host for the tournament along with Helsinki. And Silfverberg's sentiment is hardly alone — a headline in Expressen today declared "the whole world" wants the 39-year-old Alfredsson to play out the final year of his contract in Ottawa.

"I think he should continue for another year," said Dallas Stars forward Loui Eriksson, a former Swedish Elite League teammate of Alfredsson's with the Frolunda Indians who is also playing for Sweden at these worlds. "His whole career has been incredibly good."

Senators forward Milan Michalek, who'll oppose Alfredsson with the Czechs on Thursday, is also among those who wants to see Alfredsson back for another year.

"Alfredsson is a great leader," Michalek told Expressen. "He plays so well at his age and we had a good season thanks to him and Erik Karlsson."

"I have an incredible relationship with the fans, especially since I have been in the same place for so long. It's so fun to play at home. You feel appreciated at all times and it is something I value very much." - Daniel Alfredsson

The Senators captain hears these words and is heartened by the emotion behind them. But he will make everyone wait a little longer for his final decision — Alfredsson said he plans to vacation with his family after the world championship ends "and relax a bit" before making up his mind.

Alfredsson is the Senators' all-time leader in games played, goals, assists and points and is revered by fans in Ottawa, some of whom have started an online petition — they're hoping to attract 11,000 names, in line with his No. 11 — to convince him to return. Alfredsson says he's flattered when he hears of such things.

"I have an incredible relationship with the fans, especially since I have been in the same place for so long," said Alfredsson, who intends to retire as a Senator. "It's so fun to play at home. You feel appreciated at all times and it is something I value very much."

He is also one of the legends of Swedish hockey, someone who was a part of the Tre Kronor's gold-medal winning team at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics. Alfredsson, whose resume includes four world championship medals but none of them gold, wants to remedy that before the week is out. His Swedish teammates hope to get him there.

"He is probably one of the greatest Swedes who've played (in the NHL)," said Swedish forward Viktor Stalberg of the Chicago Blackhawks. "He has gained much for Sweden, (including) an Olympic gold. What he doesn't have is a world championship gold medal, so hopefully we can add that to his resume this year."

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