|Jason Spezza (left) and Daniel Alfredsson were NHL all-star teammates in 2008 in Atlanta, and they're in position to do it once again in the 2012 mid-season showcase Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place (Getty Images).
Sens Army, take a huge bow.
So says Senators centre Jason Spezza
, who might well be riding a wave of late support into a starting position for the 2012 Tim Hortons NHL All-Star Game, set for Jan. 29 at Scotiabank Place.
With just five days left in the fan balloting process which determines the mid-season showcase's six starters — three forwards, two defencemen and one goaltender — Ottawa fans are speaking louder than anyone else in the National Hockey League. As things now stand, half the starting spots are being occupied by Senators players, with Spezza (486,004 votes) surging past injured Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby (458,337) in the last few days to claim the third forward slot behind Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs (592,339) and Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson
Ottawa's Erik Karlsson
(585,179) has a massive lead over the Leafs' Dion Phaneuf (510,617) to top all defencemen in votes and is just 7,160 behind Kessel for the overall lead.
Given that Ottawa isn't anywhere near being one of the NHL's biggest markets, Spezza said Senators fans are due a huge round of applause for the support they've shown their players on the ballot — a group that also includes Milan Michalek
(fifth among forwards, 448.074) and Sergei Gonchar
(359,478, sixth among defencemen).
"I don't know if I'm surprised (by the support), because we have pretty good, loyal fans," Spezza said a few hours before the latest all-star results were released."But it's encouraging to see how excited they are about the game. I think there's a lot of buzz around the city about the game and the players are going to really enjoy being here and being in a hockey city for an all-star game.
"I'm definitely proud of the fans with how they've got on board (in fan voting)."
While Karlsson and Alfredsson have had a grip on starting positions for some time now, Spezza has enjoyed a huge surge this week. The Senators centre has picked up more than 42,000 votes in the last three days to move past Crosby, whose support has lagged since he was sidelined with a recurrence of post-concussion symptoms in mid-December.
"It's exciting to see that you've been in the mix," said Spezza, who made his NHL all-star debut in Atlanta in 2008, when Alfredsson became the first Senator ever to be voted into the game as a starter. "It looks like Alfie is going to get in and that's great. I'd love to be a part of it (and) it would be a special honour to be voted in by the fans.
"It seems like the fans have really gotten behind us and Ottawa's not a very big place, so to have as many votes as we have shows the people have really gotten behind us. As a player, (to see that support) is really special."
Fan balloting closes at 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 4. To show your support for your Senators, visit vote.nhl.com
or text a player's last name to 81812.