For Mike Fisher, these are the good times.
“It’s so much fun this time of year,” he said. “Playoffs are what you play for, and it’s exciting.”
It’s the number of times he has been in this position that is important to the Nashville Predators as they look toward their Western Conference quarterfinal series with the Anaheim Ducks, which begins Wednesday at Anaheim.
Fisher, acquired in a February trade with Ottawa, easily is the most experienced of Nashville’s players in terms of playoff games.
In 10 seasons with Ottawa, he participated in the postseason seven times for a total of 75 games. That included a trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 2007.
In all, he has appeared in 75 playoff contests. By comparison, Nashville’s other three centers — David Legwand, Jerred Smithson and Blake Geoffrion — have a combined 45 games of playoff experience.
“I think when things get tough, you always look at your experience to help you through a little adversity,” coach Barry Trotz said. “There’s going to be momentum swings, there’s going to be events, there’s going to be things that happen. … You have to deal with all the adversities. That’s where sometimes the guys with experience, like Mike, can keep you at center … and not let go get too far to the left or too far to the right.
“Plus, he’s a competitive guy. He’s dealt with a lot of that in the past.”
That experience was one of the things that made Fisher attractive to the Predators, when they began talks with Ottawa to acquire him in mid-February, several weeks before the NHL’s trade deadline.
When it was completed, the deal immediately ranked among the most meaningful in franchise history due to Fisher’s experience, consistent level of production throughout his career and the fact that his sizable contract extended through the 2012-13 season (he’s owed $7 million over the next two seasons).
“You talk about a big deal, I give [general manager] David Poile and the ownership group a tremendous amount of credit because we’ve been a team that has to watch our pennies a little bit sometimes just because it’s our market,” Trotz said. “The ownership made a big commitment to bring Mike Fisher in, and you saw the last month what Mike Fisher can do for a hockey team, especially with all the injuries. When you have that many injuries there’s a lot of guys on the payroll, and that’s a commitment the organization made.”
In 27 games with Nashville, Fisher had five goals and seven assists with a plus-2 rating, the majority of which (four goals, four assists) came in the final eight games. He averaged more than 18 minutes of ice time.
The terms of the trade made it clear, though, that whatever he accomplished during the regular season was a prelude to the playoffs. To get him, the Predators gave up a first-round pick in this June’s draft and a conditional pick in 2012. The condition for the second draft choice are simple: If Nashville wins its first-round playoff series this year, Ottawa gets a third-round choice in 2012; if it advances to the conference finals or beyond, Ottawa gets a second-round pick.
“Playoffs are all about guys elevating their games and playing the best that they can play,” Fisher said. “That being said, you can’t try to do too much. You have to do what you’ve been successful at all year. That’s going to be the key to our success — that’s a good, solid team game, everyone stepping up and contributing.
“It was nice getting here a little bit earlier. I’ve had some tough stretches at the start and recently I’ve felt like I played a little better and contributed more. I feel like I’m fitting in and most importantly the team has had a good run down the stretch and made the playoffs. Now it’s getting by Anaheim. That needs to be our focus for the next two weeks, whatever it takes.”
Or whatever it ultimately costs them, because Fisher was brought in for just this time of year.
• Local broadcast plans were finalized Monday afternoon for the first five games of the series with Anaheim.
SportSouth (Comcast Chs. 26, 284) will carry Games 1 and 2 on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. The next three contests will be shown on Fox Sports-Tennessee (Comcast Chs. 28, 295).
Broadcast outlets for the final two games of the series, if necessary, will be determined at a later date based on developments around the league.
• Ben Ryan, a fourth-round draft choice in 2007, signed a two-year entry-level contract following the completion of his four-year college career at Notre Dame.
Ryan, a 5-foot-11, 193-pound forward, was an alternate captain this past season, when he recorded six goals and 19 assists and helped Notre Dame reach the Frozen Four.
He joined Milwaukee on an amateur tryout agreement. His contract takes effect with the start of next season.