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Fans crown Sens' Karlsson king of all-star ballot

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Erik Karlsson was the Senators' lone representative at the 2011 NHL All-Star Game in Raleigh, N.C., but he'll have plenty of familiar company when the 2012 game comes to Scotiabank Place on Jan. 29. Four Sens were among six players voted into the game by fans (Getty Images).

You'll never forget your first all-star experience.

Or so the old saying goes within the National Hockey League fraternity.

Erik Karlsson might well be tempted to say No. 2 rates the same kind of treatment, given the company he'll keep at the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, set for Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place. The 21-year-old blueliner is one of four Senators voted into the mid-season showcase by fans, a group that also includes Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson, centre Jason Spezza and winger Milan Michalek.

"I just think it's going to be nice to know some people (ahead of time)," said Karlsson, who made his all-star debut ago as the Senators' lone representative at the 2011 game in Raleigh, N.C. "I'm really looking forward to playing alongside those guys."

As the NHL's top-scoring defenceman (5-32-37), the dynamic Karlsson figured to draw plenty of attention from fans in the balloting process. But when all was said and done, he outpolled everyone with a whopping 939,591 votes — some 42,536 better than Alfredsson, who gained the most support among forwards. Coming from one of the NHL's smallest markets, Karlsson hardly imagined the kind of fan involvement that produced that kind of result.

"We're a pretty small town compared to other cites," said Karlsson. "But I think the community and the papers have done a good job in really promoting us. That fans really showed their support for us and put in time to help us out.

"As I've said before, I'm really, really appreciative of the support from everybody and it's a good feeling knowing that people like what you do and they really support you."

In Karlsson's case, that support extended across the pond to his native Sweden, where his father, Jonas, created his first e-mail accounts to get in on the process.

"I know a bunch of friends and family (voted), so I have to give credit to them, too," said Karlsson.

Karlsson is especially thrilled for Alfredsson, his mentor and a fellow Swede, who's making his sixth all-star game appearance at 39 years old. Karlsson was the set-up man for Alfredsson's 400th career NHL goal last Friday and, if the Ottawa captain has his way, they'll be all-star teammates as well.

Alfredsson has already suggested that if he's named one of the all-star team captains, he'll likely pick Karlsson first in the Jan. 26 fantasy player draft that determines the makeup of the squads for the game — if only to please his two eldest sons, who got to know Karlsson well when he boarded with the family for a time during his rookie NHL season.

"Maybe I'll have to spend some extra time with them now," Karlsson said with a grin when told of Alfredsson's possible draft plan. "We'll see. It's his choice ... It's going to be really fun for him. He's got a big family now and he probably has a bunch of friends and other guys coming in now (for all-star weekend).

"Just to be able to play it here once every 16 years or whatever's it's been ... it's pretty unique to be able to have it (in Ottawa) right now. He's probably pretty happy about that."

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