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All-star weekend buzz taking over nation's capital

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
There's a fever beginning to spread across the nation's capital.

Soon enough, it figures to reach epidemic proportions.

But unlike the illness that is sure to leave more than a few folks bedridden in the middle of a cold Ottawa winter, this is one malady hockey lovers are most happy to embrace.

All-star weekend — and all the fun and excitement that goes along with it — has indeed arrived in the city that the Ottawa Senators call home. A procession of National Hockey League trophies later this afternoon kicks off the festivities, followed by the official opening of Scotiabank Fan Fair at the Ottawa Convention Centre at 3 p.m.

The highlight of the day comes this evening at the Hilton Lac Leamy in Gatineau, when captains Daniel Alfredsson of the Senators and Zdeno Chara of the Boston Bruins will choose their teams at the 2012 Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft (8 p.m., TSN). Three other Ottawa players — defenceman Erik Karlsson, centre Jason Spezza and winger Milan Michalek — should be front and centre in those proceedings, at least in the eyes of local fans.

Alfredsson has already suggested he'll take Karlsson, a fellow Swede, with his first pick in the draft. And given that he'll be assisted by New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist — also a native of the same Scandinavian country — it's a better than even bet that it might happen.

Karlsson, who's making his second all-star game appearance, certainly hopes so. His secret weapon in that regard might be Alfredsson's four sons, who are apparently pushing their father to choose the 21-year-old blueliner, who boarded with the family when he first moved to Ottawa.

"I’ve been pushing hard, too," Karlsson, the NHL's top-scoring defenceman with 47 points, said with a grin. "It might be the only chance I have ever to go early in a draft. We’ll see what happens. I’m going to have a conversation with Alfie’s boys (about it) and hopefully, it helps.

"It would be a lot of fun and be a great honour to be on Alfie’s team and to play with him in an all-star game. Especially in Ottawa, it’s going to be something special."

That's a sentiment shared by all the Senators involved this weekend, a group that also includes forward Colin Greening, one of 12 rookies chosen to take part in Saturday's Molson Canadian NHL All-Star Skills Competition (4 p.m., CBC).

"I'm really excited about it," said Michalek, a first-time all-star participant. "It's at home and it's going to be really exciting for us and for the people, too. This city lives by (hockey). It's great to see everybody's spirit and it's going to be a lot of fun."

Added Karlsson: "It'll be great to see the city really light up and everybody being so excited. From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be a good show and something special for sure. It'll be something we'll cherish for a very long time."

Meet Senators players at Scotiabank Fan Fair

Greening (4 p.m.) and Michalek (5:30 p.m.) will be guests during moderated live chats slated to be held in the SiriusXM Theatre on the third level of the convention centre. In addition, Michalek (4:45 p.m.) and Karlsson (5:15) are each scheduled to hold autograph signing sessions in the Bell zone, which is also located on the third level.

For a complete schedule of today's activities at Fan Fair, click here.

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