Nashville Predators v Vancouver Canucks - Game One

Mike Fisher slowly recovering from offseason surgery, could be in doubt for season opener

It’s an exciting season in the Hockey Tonk this year as the Predators look to build on their best postseason in franchise history. The organization had noticeable momentum last season—on the ice, in the stands, and around town. The big question now: what will the Predators do for an encore?

The big story of the offseason was undoubtedly Shea Weber and his contract negotiations. But another story that flew under the radar hasn’t worked out quite as well: Mike Fisher’s shoulder. The mid-season acquisition underwent offseason shoulder surgery in May and was supposed to be ready for training camp. Well, he was at training camp—just not participating in anything too intensive.

Josh Cooper from The Tennessean caught up with Fisher to shed a little light on the recovery process:

“Still not ready for contact or anything. But I am skating and starting to shoot a bit, and it’s coming. I’m just really not sure as far as timetable. I just have to be patient.”

Asked if there is any fear that he won’t be ready for the start of the season, Fisher displayed some uncertainty.

“Not sure to be honest,” he said. “We’ll see if I can slip into training camp, get strong and feel good. But it’s coming up quick. It has been a long haul so far, so we’ll see.”

The last part of Fisher’s comments doesn’t sound very encouraging. The problem with Fisher missing any regular season games is two-fold. First and foremost, nobody in the Western Conference is in the position to waste away points in the beginning of the season. Each team will be competing to get off to a good start and create a little room between themselves and the 9th seed. Like everyone else, the Preds would like to stockpile as many wins in October in case they run into problems later in the season.

Also, it wouldn’t hurt attendance in football country if the Predators capitalized on the momentum they created last postseason.

Secondly, Fisher proved to be an important player for Nashville in his 27 games with the organization. He may have only scored 5 goals and 12 points in his short stint with the Preds, but it was his importance to the rest of the team that made him so valuable. Guys like David Legwand were put into positions to succeed while Fisher and his linemates faced the opponents’ top defensive pairings. In turn, Legwand was freed up to play a more offensive role. He may not be a #1 center option, but he proved at the end of the season that he’s a pretty good alternative on the second line.

Those are the things won’t show up on Fisher’s stat sheet.

The next step is watching how Fisher recovers throughout training camp and the preseason. As he alluded to in his comments, once he recovers and is cleared for contact, he’ll still have to work himself into game shape. Sadly, those are the things that players usually do during the preseason. Veteran players like Fisher are certainly capable of missing a few weeks before the season starts—but everyone involved would like him to get a little contact in before the games start to count.

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.