Karlsson defends buddy Petersson after interview gaffe

Ottawa Senators prospect André Petersson learned the hard way this weekend that civic pride often runs deep — especially in blue-collar cities like Binghamton, New York.

Ottawa Senators prospect André Petersson learned the hard way this weekend that civic pride often runs deep — especially in blue-collar cities like Binghamton, New York.

A few weeks ago, Petersson gave an interview to Swedish newspaper Sportbladet that was translated Friday by Ottawa-based hockey blog The 6th Sens. In it, Petersson is quoted as saying Binghamton — home to the Senators’ AHL farm team — is “thought of as one of the most depressing (cities) in the US.

“If I wouldn’t have had a Swedish teammate, I’d be gone three months ago,” Petersson reportedly said, referring to fellow Binghamton Senator Robin Lehner.

He also sounded unimpressed with his lone call-up to the big club this season, suggesting he wasn’t given a real opportunity to show what he was capable of.

Petersson, who leads the B-Sens in goal-scoring (16) and will be pushing for a roster spot in Ottawa next season, played just 5:02 in a 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 21.

Word finally trickled down to New York, and when Petersson skated out to claim his player of the month award at the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena Saturday night, Bingo fans showered him with boos and suggestions he book it back to Europe.

After the game, he told the Binghamton Press and Sun-Bulletin’s Joy Lindsay that he truly regretted his comments and professed his affection for fans there. The tone of the article, he said, didn’t reflect the hour-long conversation he had with the Swedish reporter.

On Sunday, one of his best friends in hockey — Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson — hopped to his defence.

“I think it’s more the papers in Sweden trying to stop players from going here too early, and it’s just unlucky for him that it got put out like that…it’s not easy sometimes,” Karlsson said.

“I think Sweden, right now, is trying to extend their rights to the players,” he continued. “Right now, it’s two years, and if you don’t sign (after) two years, they lose their rights, and that’s how all the younger players cross over here and play in the AHL instead of playing in the Swedish Elite League.

“Obviously, Sweden wants to keep their players, and right now I think they’re doing everything they can to make that happen.”

This isn’t the first time a Swedish prospect has run afoul of Binghamton hockey fans.

Lehner heard catcalls when he first arrived there a few years ago, thanks to his bombastic attitude and some less-than-enthusiastic interviews about his AHL assignment.

As Lehner showed, however, winning tends to shorten memories. The goaltender backstopped the B-Sens to a Calder Cup championship last season and won over a lot of people in the process.

SENATORS GAINING RESPECT

The results of the latest Hockey Night in Canada/NHLPA Player Poll are out, and they contain a compliment of sorts for the Senators.

Players consider Ottawa the third-most underrated team in the NHL, behind only the St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators.

Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson said his team embraced the underdog role early in the season, when nobody considered it a playoff threat.

“We’ve done a good job pushing ourselves and not being satisfied by winning, not accepting losing and just coming to work every day,” he said. “And the coaching staff has been the leading force behind that.”

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