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Karlsson feeling at home with Team Staal

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson puts on a Team Staal jersey after his selection by the Carolina Hurricanes captain during Friday's NHL All-Star Fantasy Draft in Raleigh, N.C. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images).

Erik Karlsson can't wait to suit up for the home team — or at least the closet thing to it.

Even if it isn't the one captained by a hockey hero from his homeland.

The Ottawa Senators defenceman grinned widely as he slipped a white all-star jersey over his head after being selected by Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal during Friday's night inaugual NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft in Raleigh, N.C.

Team Staal will oppose a team captained by Detroit Red Wings defenceman Nick Lidstrom in Sunday's 58th annual NHL all-star game at the RBC Center, the home rink of the Hurricanes. The 20-year-old Karlsson, the youngest blueliner in the game, will make his all-star debut this weekend.

Lidstrom, a fellow Swede, was one of Karlsson's idols when he was growing up. But he'll happily suit up with Team Staal on Sunday (4 p.m., CBC).

"Either team would have been good, but I'm happy I got picked by them," Karlsson told when asked about his selection by Team Staal. "There's a few guys there I know from the past, so it was nice. I'm looking forward to being in the locker-room (with them) tomorrow.

"(Being picked by Lidstrom) would have been nice. But I'm happy that at least the Staal team wanted me. It's going to be fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Team Staal's roster does include a pair of Swedes, forward Daniel Sedin — who'll oppose twin brother Henrik, a Team Lidstrom choice, for the first time — and goaltender Henrik Lundqvist.

"It'll be nice to be able to speak at least a little bit of Swedish," said Karlsson.

Staal made sure his team will be a home team of sorts, picking Carolina goaltender Cam Ward first overall, then later adding 18-year-old forward Jeff Skinner — the youngest all-star participant ever.

"Maybe," Karlsson said when asked if he expects to feel like a part of the home side. "They'll probably cheer more for the Carolina (players) there, so it's going to be nice."

While he had to wait for awhile to be selected — all defenceman had to be chosen by the 15th round and he was the last to go — Karlsson didn't consider it a nerve-wracking experience.

"I was actually fine," he said. "You knew you were going to be picked eventually. So it's not like you were sitting there wondering if you would be picked or not. It was pretty fun to sit there and watch everybody.

"It was a great event. It was better than I expected and everybody enjoyed it."

All-star weekend launches on Saturday night with the Honda SuperSkills competition (7 p.m., CBC).

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