Fisher’s scoring burst boosting Preds’ erratic offense
Three times this season (Nov. 8-15, Nov. 28 to Dec. 7 and Dec. 17-27), the Predators have had losing streaks of four, five and five games, respectively, with all but two of the defeats coming in regulation.
The absence of scoring has often proved a culprit during the losing streaks. The Predators scored a total of two goals during the first four-game funk, seven during the first five-game slide and nine during the most recent one that ended on Saturday.
One game short of the halfway mark, Nashville sits nine points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. As the Predators seek stability in goal, with Marek Mazanec collecting more starts in the net, an infusion of offense would help.
Lately, the 33-year-old center has been supplying the boost. He burst out of the NHL’s three-day holiday break with three goals and three assists — back-to-back wins over Los Angeles and Detroit.
"I knew it was just a matter of time," Fisher said. "I just had to keep putting it there and especially playing with the guys Iâm playing with" — Colin Wilson as his left wing and Patric Hornqvist as his right. "Theyâre around the net making plays, you just have to keep doing that and weâve been getting rewarded."
On Feb. 10, Fisher will celebrate three years with the Predators after coming over from Ottawa in exchange for a first-round pick (it ended up being Stefan Noesen) and a third-round pick (the Senators used that on Jarrod Maidens). That deal has been one of the Preds’ best in recent memory.
In 2011, Fisher helped the Predators win their first playoff series in franchise history, tallying three goals and three assists in a six-game series against Anaheim. The next season, his 24 goals ranked second on the team. Nashville only had two 20-goal scorers on the roster.
Fisher has recaptured that old form this season. If he has shown any negatives, it’s that he missed his share of games from time to time. He missed 10 of 48 games last season but still scored 10 goals.
Fisher has missed seven games already and his absence from the lineup has been felt that much more acutely by the Predators, given his recent scoring clip. Fisher, who missed three games during a four-game losing streak, is scoring once every 3.3 games, representing 25 goals over an 82-game slate.
Perhaps in an effort to keep Fisher healthy and to get more offense out of him, coach Barry Trotz is using him a little more sparingly, opting for center David Legwand more in defensive situations.
"His defensive part of the game is really strong for Fisher and he’s getting rewarded with some offense right now, I’m not using him as the primary guy as much as I have been and I think he looks fresher," Trotz said. "He’s playing really well and his line is playing quite well. Everyone is getting a different responsibility."
The only other Predator on a pace for 20 goals is Craig Smith. The 24-year-old notched five goals and two assists in six games entering Thursday.
Smith has been getting rewarded for his performance, logging 19:03 on Monday against Detroit, his second-highest total of the season. It’s significant for Smith, who was scratched for three straight games from Dec. 7-12.
Smith’s 11 goals lead the team and, like Fisher, the Predators need him on top of his game and in the lineup.
The Preds hope the recent offensive outburst will spark some team-wide confidence.
"It’s not very often we score six goals so it was pretty exciting to be a part of," Wilson said of the victory over the Red Wings. "It’s obviously what we want to do — start putting wins together, start getting on a roll and gaining more confidence."
If Fisher stays hot, that could do the trick.