This time Fisher ready for physical demands of Predators' playoff run

Monday, April 9, 2012 at 11:10pm

Mike Fisher shouldered much of the scoring load for the Nashville Predators when they won an NHL playoff series for the first time.

Given the state of his shoulder at the time — for some time, in fact — it was an impressive performance. He was unable or incapable of sustaining that level of play, though.

“When we got to Vancouver [for the second round], it was incredible how beat up he was and he was playing through all that pain and still performed pretty well,” coach Barry Trotz said. “If we had gotten past Vancouver, I don’t know how far he could have [gone] because he was pretty beat up.”

Offseason shoulder surgery was so involved and the rehabilitation was so lengthy that the 31-year-old center actually missed the start of the 2011-12 season, which ended Saturday.

With the 2012 playoffs set to open Wednesday, though, he feels ready for as many rounds as the team can muster. The Predators have home-ice advantage for their Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Detroit Red Wings.

“I’ve felt really good the last few months at least,” Fisher said. “My shoulder’s gotten a lot better. I’ve been able to work out more, and I feel a lot better than the last few years even.”

He finished this season as Nashville’s third-leading scorer with 51 points, the third-highest total of his career. His 24 goals were one short of his career-high.

Since Jan. 1, he has not gone more than two straight games without at least one point.

Prior to this season, he said, pain in his shoulder had been an issue “for a couple years.” As such it was a factor after the Predators traded from him last February, particularly in the faceoff circle where he won just 48.2 percent of his draws.

Still, Fisher had a team-high six points in the six-game victory over Anaheim in the opening round of last year’s playoffs. He had two goals and an assist in the opener, scored the game-winning goal in Game 3 and had an assist in a critical Game 5 overtime triumph.

He followed that with just one assist in six games when Vancouver eliminated Nashville in the second round.

It still was one of the most productive playoff performances he had in his career, which included 75 games in seven trips with the Ottawa Senators.

“Last year we played a lot of playoff games before the playoffs started, and that took its toll on [Fisher] because [Fisher] plays every shift real hard and physical,” Trotz said. “He had a beat up shoulder and a beat up knee and a sternum problem.”

It was the shoulder, though, that required significant attention from team doctors. Surgery repaired the issue, which was worse than anticipated.

“I just had a problem and kind of tried to ignore it,” he said. “I probably shouldn’t have for that long. I think a lot of guys do that, though.

“Shoulders are brutal, especially in this game.”

It was not enough to keep him out of the playoffs. Nor was it likely that it was the last time he should expect to feel discomfort in the postseason.

“When you play injured, you can say what you want but I think it’s hard to be effective,” Trotz said. “… You want to be healthy, but if you’re totally 100 percent healthy in the playoffs then you’re not playing hard enough.”

Briefly

• There were several high-profile absentees during Monday’s workout at Centennial Sportsplex, which lasted roughly an hour.

Defenseman Hal Gill, right wing Alexander Radulov, right wing Brandon Yip and goalie Anders Lindback all sat out the session, but each was expected to be available for Game 1 on Wednesday.

“It’s just a little bit of maintenance,” Trotz said. “I expect all of them to be out [for practice] Tuesday.”

Goalie Jeremy Smith was recalled from Milwaukee and practiced in place of Lindback.

• The Predators will produce their own television broadcasts for four of the first five games of the series.

Games 1, 2 and 5, if necessary, at Bridgestone Arena and Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena all will be shown on SportSouth with Pete Weber and Terry Crisp calling the action. Sunday’s Game 3 will be limited to NBC’s national broadcast.

Times have not yet been set for Games 6 and 7, if they become necessary, so determinations on broadcast plans have not been made.