After Mike Fisher ruptured his Achilles this summer, Nashville GM David Poile said a return by Thanksgiving would be an “optimistic target.”
Well, target met.
Fisher will make his season debut tonight when the Preds host the Oilers, the first time he’s played since April of last season. The return promises to be a boon for the surging Predators, who head into tonight’s action sitting atop the Central Division with a 14-5-2 record; Fisher had a great year for Nashville in ’13-14, scoring 20 goals and 49 points while averaging 19:45 TOI — the second-highest total of his 14-year career.
With Fisher back, Nashville will boast a wealth of veteran experience at center: Mike Ribeiro, Derek Roy, Olli Jokinen, Matt Cullen and Paul Gaustad have all been playing there this season (along with rookie Calle Jarnkrok), so it’ll be interesting to see what head coach Peter Laviolette does with his lineup.
Updated: Looks as though Fisher will be the third-line center tonight with Jokinen and Roy playing his wings.
Jason Spezza is no longer a pending unrestricted free agent. The 31-year-old center has signed a four-year, $30 million extension with the Dallas Stars.
With that, the list of pending UFA centers lost the only player who could be deemed elite. (Please, let’s not turn this into a discussion on whether Spezza is an elite center. That’s not the point of this.)
Certainly some names you’d recognize, like Brad Richards, Mike Fisher, Antoine Vermette, Matt Cullen, Daniel Briere, Shawn Horcoff, Jarret Stoll, Olli Jokinen, Derek Roy and Mike Ribeiro.
While some of those guys might have been elite in the past, they’re not anymore.
To be fair, Fisher, 34, and Vermette, 32, should garner considerable interest should they get to free agency. How the former comes back from his Achilles injury will be particularly interesting to watch given his contract status. The latter, meanwhile, could be one of the prize commodities at the trade deadline.
Still, those two are No. 2 centers, maybe even No 3s on a good team. If you’re the GM of a club that’s lacking a real impact player down the middle, don’t expect July 1 to be the day you solve your problem.
The Nashville Predators dominated the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first period of Tuesday’s game and goaltender Jonathan Bernier paid the price. He was yanked from the contest after allowing three goals on 12 shots in the first period.
The Maple Leafs could have certainly done more to help Bernier tonight, but the netminder wasn’t completely blameless either. A good example was Taylor Beck’s opening goal just 1:52 minutes into the contest. Beck was given too much room to work with by Toronto’s defense, but his shot also looked stoppable.
Derek Roy netted his first goal of the season at 10:14 and Beck added his second goal of the night towards the end of the period.
The decision to pull Bernier might have ultimately had more to do with coach Randy Carlyle trying to spark his team than it did with Bernier’s play. Regardless, James Reimer is playing between the pipes in his place.