Predators-Senators Preview

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.

Fisher, Colin Wilson and Sergei Kostitsyn each had a goal

Tuesday against Northwest Division-leading Vancouver, but all three

failed to score during a six-round shootout as Nashville lost

4-3.

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.

Milan Michalek leads the Senators with 23 goals but has none in

the past 11 games. Jason Spezza, who has 20 goals and a team-best

51 points, has one assist during the losing streak.