|Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson, an NHL all-star participant last season in Raleigh, N.C., currently leads all vote-getters among fan balloting to decide the starters for the 2012 game. It's set to played in Ottawa for the first time, on Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place (Getty Images).
Ottawa Senators fans clearly want to see their hometown stars in the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, and they are proving it early in the voting process to select the starters for the mid-season classic.
Three members of the Senators, who are one point shy of the top eight in the Eastern Conference in a season most pundits pegged them to struggle, are among the top four vote-getters as the first official polling numbers were announced Tuesday afternoon. If the voting ended now for the game, which will be played Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place, they would all be in the starting lineup.
Senators efenceman Erik Karlsson, 21, is tied for the league lead in points at his position with 18, and he leads all ASG vote-getters with 147,468 votes. Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson is first among forwards and second overall with 131,774, while Jason Spezza is third among forwards and fourth overall at 117,899 votes.
Toronto's Phil Kessel would join the three Senators as all-star game starters if the voting ended now, as would a pair of Boston Bruins -- defenceman Zdeno Chara and goaltender Tim Thomas.
Nine players have received at least 100,000 votes to this point and a fourth member of the Senators, forward Milan Michalek, is among them. He's fourth on the list of forwards with 108,247 votes.
Kessel leads the NHL in goals (16) and points (29), and he is currently second among forwards with 128,390 votes. Two Philadelphia Flyers (Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr) and a pair of Chicago Blackhawks (Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane) occupy spots No. 5 through No. 8 among the forwards.
Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby checks in at No. 9 with 74,528 votes, and he might rise up this list pretty quickly if he has more games like his two-goal, four-point night Monday in his season debut. He had 14,000 votes in a 24-hour span leading up Tuesday morning alone.
Boston's Tyler Seguin is the leader among write-in candidates. He has 41,443 votes, which is 24th among forwards. New York Rangers defenceman Dan Girardi has the second-most write-in votes with 37,836.
Chara is currently locked in a tight battle with Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom for the No. 2 spot among defensemen. The Boston captain has 110,098 votes -- a little over 2,000 more than Lidstrom. Other defencemen not far behind Chara include Pittsburgh's Kris Letang (105,741 votes), Toronto's Dion Phaneuf (102,044) and Chicago's Duncan Keith (96,920).
The top competitor for Thomas in net is Pittsburgh goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. Thomas has 95,681 votes, while Fleury checks in with 88,100. Toronto goaltender James Reimer is third at 73,158.
Fans can vote at vote.nhl.com. The virtual poll booth closes on Jan. 4.
-- Author: Dan Rosen