The Nashville Predators knew they were getting a great player when they acquired forward Mike Fisher last February from the Ottawa Senators. However, a lingering shoulder injury that Fisher brought with him to Music City may have obscured just how good he truly is. Thursday night at Bridgestone Arena, the now-fully-healed Fisher’s talent was on display for all to see; he scored a pair of goals and added an assist as the Preds defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 (Photo: Frederick Breedon/Getty Images).
Mike Fisher got our attention on Tuesday night. In his inaugural appearance of 2011-12, the Nashville Predators’ veteran forward gave us a glimpse of what could be something very special this season. We wanted to, but we didn’t bite – at first. Fisher, whose start this season was delayed by shoulder surgery last May, would start out gradually, slowly – at least that’s what we were told.
Going into Tuesday’s game with the San Jose Sharks, Head Coach Barry Trotz indicated that Fisher wouldn’t even be taking face-offs right off the bat; Trotz was thinking in terms of not wanting to place too much strain on the shoulder, which Fisher admitted was still not 100% sound from a game-strength perspective. Nonetheless, there he was Tuesday, taking the majority of the team’s draws, winning just one more than he lost, but experiencing no difficulty with the shoulder according to his postgame remarks.
Fisher played just over 19 minutes – the third-most ice time among Predators forwards. He even chipped in an assist on Craig Smith’s power play marker, Nashville’s lone goal on the evening.
Afterwards he said that he felt good, but that he “still had some things to work on.”
Who knew he was such a fast worker?
Tuesday night we caught a glimpse; Thursday we saw all we needed to see to know that Mike Fisher is indeed back, and a line joining his talents with those of Sergei Kostitsyn and the continually impressive Smith, may be the most dynamic in Predators history. One game does not a legend make, but the talent of Kostitsyn and Smith is there and Fisher has the ability to bring out the best in any player on the ice.
Thursday’s 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning featured a season-high scoring output by the Predators; three of the five goals were generated by Trotz’s new first line; two goals and an assist from Fisher; a goal and an assist from Kostitsyn; a pair of assists from Smith.
In recent years, it has seemed that the Predators most formidable adversary hasn’t necessarily been one with whom they’ve done battle on the ice. Instead – particularly last season – Nashville’s greatest foe was the injury bug. The Preds had the fourth-highest number of man-games lost to injury (307) in 2010-11 – the most among teams to make the playoffs.
This season, it would seem imperative that they don’t have a repeat of last season’s injury woes; the slow start they’ve already experienced hasn’t exactly helped their position in the standings – and we all know that wins in October and November are just as important as they are in March and April. If the return of Fisher, as well as that of Marty Erat (potentially as early as this Saturday’s playoff rematch versus Anaheim at Bridgestone Arena) can usher in a period of normalcy in terms of the team’s offensive performance – particularly in view of the outstanding play in goal of Pekka Rinne already this season – the sky is the limit.
However, if the M.A.S.H. unit impersonation continues as it did last year, it could be another season of anxiety and heartburn for the Preds faithful.
Fisher’s delayed start and Erat’s eight game absence since opening night notwithstanding, the Preds lack any certainty that their injury bad luck won’t continue. Thursday, a second period leg injury to Sergei Kostitsyn may cost the team the services of last season’s leading goal scorer for the Anaheim game. Kostitsyn has picked right back up where he left off last year and any extended time without him in the lineup would not be easily righted.
However one thing is for certain: Mike Fisher IS healthy now and his presence will continue to be felt.
And that’s no fish story.
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