Fans have voted four Senators into the starting lineup for the NHL all-star game in Ottawa, including captain Daniel Alfredsson and surprise late-charger Milan Michalek.
They join Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson, centre Jason Spezza, Toronto Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf and Bruins goalie Tim Thomas in the starting six.
The results of the vote were announced on the NHL’s web site at 10:30 a.m. and were posted on the scoreboard at Scotiabank Place minutes later. The Senators, who were in the middle of their morning skate ahead of Thursday night’s home game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, shouted and tapped their sticks on the ice to congratulate their colleagues.
The addition of Michalek is a shocker. Leafs winger Phil Kessel led all forwards for much of the voting period an appeared to be a lock to make the cut.
Instead, a late push by Senators fans — urged on by multiple fan and media campaigns — took him out of the running at the last minute. He wound up missing out by more than 42,000 votes.
Another Leaf, goalie James Reimer, held the lead among goalies heading into the final week, but was edged by Stanley Cup winner Thomas.
Karlsson garnered more votes (939,951) than any other player, an impressive feat considering Alfredsson appeared to be the sentimental favourite in the capital. The diminutive defenceman is arguably the most deserving of the four Senators, given he has been running away with the scoring lead among NHL defencemen.
“I’m very appreciative of it,” Karlsson said after the skate. “The community and everybody in Ottawa did a really good job of promoting it and making people realize we’re actually playing good this year.
“It’s nice to see Alfie, Spezza and Milo got in as well.”
Alfredsson agreed that the Senators’ team play had a lot to do with the successful campaign.
“We’ve played pretty well, we’ve surprised a lot of people so far. When you look at Spezza, Karlsson and Milan, they’ve had good starts to the season and it would be tough to select who was going to go if we didn’t get voted in. To see four of us get in, when the all-star game is here, is great,” he said.
Spezza called it an “honour” to be voted in.
“(We’re) really appreciative of the fan support we got. To get four of us voted in is pretty special,” he said. It shows how much the fans are behind us.
“Fans have really got on board, crowds have been great this year. People have really been excited. It has been a great year so far and this is a great way to cap off the first half.”
Senators fans contributed to a 66 per cent increase in all-star votes this year. Last season’s game was played in Raleigh, North Carolina.
More news and notes from the morning skate:
— Injured defenceman Chris Phillips worked out today and could return to the lineup as early as the weekend. He’s recovering from a concussion.
— Craig Anderson will get the start in goal for the Senators.