Karlsson, Sens up against Forsberg's ghost for hearts of Sweden's hockey fans

Erik Karlsson and the Ottawa Senators face off against the Colarado Avalanche in Stockholm this weekend.

Ottawa Senators set to face off against Colorado Avalanche in Stockholm this weekend

Ottawa Senators defenceman Erik Karlsson is back in his native Sweden for two games against the Colorado Avalanche this weekend. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The Ottawa Senators' Erik Karlsson is back on home ice for a series of overseas games in Sweden.

He'll be leading the team against the Colorado Avalanche in two games in Stockholm on Friday and Saturday, part of the NHL's Global Series.

But despite the Sens' unassailable Swedish connections, one of that country's best known hockey broadcasters believes Ottawa might not necessarily be the fan favourites this weekend.

"I think that Colorado will have more of the support, and I blame that on Peter Forsberg," Marie Lehmann, host of Hockey Night in Sweden, told CBC Radio's All in a Day Thursday. 

The Northern European nation lays claim to more than a few NHL stars — including former Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson — but Forsberg, the two-time Stanley Cup winner and former Avalanche great, remains a true national hero, Lehmann said.

Nevertheless, Karlsson and the Sens have their share of fans.

"The Senators will have fans as well, of course," she said. "The young guys here, they just love Erik Karlsson."

NHL gaining momentum in Sweden

North American hockey has become increasingly popular in Sweden, according to Lehmann.

"We didn't broadcast NHL games for 32 years, but we do this year. There's a lot more talk about the NHL this year."

Nevertheless, Lehmann said many Swedes will be hard pressed to give up their local allegiances to such teams as Frölunda Hockey Club in Gothenburg, where both Karlsson and former Sens captain Daniel Alfredsson made names for themselves.

"It's a totally different atmosphere. The fans are so true to their own team, and they are for their entire lives," Lehmann said.

NHL hockey will be up against a formidable foe for the attention of Swedish sports fans: the country's national soccer team is attempting to qualify for the World Cup this week.

With files from All in a Day