During his 10-plus seasons with the Ottawa Senators, Mike Fisher was a fan favorite who was instrumental to their Stanley Cup finals run five years ago. He was an adept goal scorer, but never scored as proficiently as he is now for the Nashville Predators.
Fisher makes his return to Ottawa almost a year to the day he was traded when the Predators face the struggling Senators on Thursday night.
Ottawa (27-22-7) selected Fisher in the second round of the 1998 draft and he donned a Senators sweater for 675 regular-season games and 75 playoff contests before being dealt to Nashville last Feb. 10 for two draft picks. He helped Ottawa advance past the first round in four of seven playoff appearances, including the 2007 Stanley Cup finals and the 2003 Eastern Conference finals, and his 167 goals rank sixth in franchise history.
Fisher was popular in the community, but the Senators had lost 11 straight games leading up to the day he was traded and general manager Bryan Murray felt the franchise needed to rebuild. He was shipped to the Predators (32-17-5) and keyed their push to the playoffs, as he is now.
Nashville has climbed into a tie for fourth in the Western Conference, going an NHL-best 11-2-1 since Jan. 7 with Fisher tallying nine goals and seven assists. He leads the Predators with 16 goals, half of which have come in the last eight games.
Pekka Rinne had his 11-game winning streak snapped. He yielded three first-period goals, including two 23 seconds apart, but did not allow another score until the shootout.
"When we get down, we know how good Pekka can be," Fisher said. "He can shut the door, and we just seem to be able to relax and play. We try to chip away and we never give up. It would have been nice to get that one but that's a good hockey team."
Rinne has won his last six road games while posting a 1.32 goals-against average. He started Nashville's last matchup with Ottawa, stopping 28 shots in a 2-1 loss Dec. 23, 2010.
That came not long before Fisher left Ottawa, and just like at the time he was traded, the Senators are slumping.
Ottawa has been outscored 23-9 during a season-worst seven-game losing streak, dropping from third place in the East to eighth.
Craig Anderson made his 18th consecutive start Tuesday but didn't last four minutes in a 3-1 loss to St. Louis, surrendering two goals on four shots. Alex Auld entered and turned aside 13 of 14 shots, but Ottawa still lost for the fourth straight time at home.
"The biggest thing is to make sure we're sticking together," said Auld, who hasn't made a start since Dec. 30. "That's what has gotten us through some tough times this year is the fact that we are a close group and we have to make sure that we are holding each other accountable and still having a lot of fun in practice and I believe we're going to get out of this."
Daniel Alfredsson notched his 18th goal Tuesday and has been one of the few Ottawa players to score with some regularity lately, tallying four in the last nine games.