No vine for Sens

STEVE MACFARLANE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:06 AM ET

No Jungle Karma. The Ottawa Senators are on their own this time.

At least for the first two contests in Buffalo as the Sens face the Sabres in the Eastern Conference final.

Senators president Roy Mlakar has twice called in to old pal Jim Rome's cult sports talk radio show (which airs locally on The Fan 960) -- at the dawn of each series so far this spring -- to give his NHL club a taste of the superstitious 'Jungle Karma' that urban legend says gives callers a boost for their games.

Rome's show is so popular, the term has even made it into the Urban Dictionary.

Whether or not the tact truly works, Mlakar swears by it.

"So far so good," said Mlakar, who went on the air before the opening-round series against the upstart Pittsburgh Penguins and again as they prepared to face the favoured New Jersey Devils in Round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The Sens claimed both those best-of-seven battles in five games with plenty left in the tank for the Presidents' Trophy winning Sabres.

"It's not the first year I've been on Rome," Mlakar said. "As long as he's been on the radio, I've been with him.

"I call Jimmy my friend."

But when religious Rome fans tune in to the show this morning on FAN 960, you won't hear Mlakar or Rome on the airwaves. The Los Angleles-based host is taking the week off and Mlakar won't talk to any of the fill-ins.

"I sent an email to Travis (the show's longtime producer Travis Rogers) this week," Mlakar said.

"This is the wrong time for Jim to be pulling this vacation crap."

The email, says Mlakar, read like this: "We're in the third round, when the hell is he back?"

The reply from Rogers: "He's back Monday and you're the first guest."

By then, the series will already have been shaped after tonight's opener and Saturday's Game 2 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo.

"I said you just better hope we win at least one game in Buffalo," Mlakar said with a laugh as he made his way to the airport in Ottawa yesterday.

Mlakar, though, isn't just a typical interview. His fate -- which, coincidentally, is one of the definitions of karma -- has been linked with Rome's ever since the two met back in 1987 when Mlakar was president of the Los Angeles Kings and Rome was a relatively unknown radio host working the 7 p.m.-midnight Pacific shift on The Mighty 690 in San Diego.

The Kings executive found a home for his club's radio broadcasts and started a lasting friendship with one of the station's personalities after meeting Rome.

He brought Kings players to Rome's Scrub Saturday broadcasts from trading card shows and helped launch the radio icon's career.

Wayne Gretzky's spot after the blockbuster deal the next season took Rome's show to a new level.

The two flourished together in Southern California.

"The year we went to the finals, Romie really jumped on the bandwagon and was great for us," Mlakar said of his 1993 Kings.

Now, the Sens president is reaping the reward in the form of Jungle Karma.

All of Canada hopes Monday's call isn't too late.


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