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Stanley Cup Final

Mike Fisher, Craig Smith likely in Game 1 lineup for Predators

Forwards probable for Cup Final opener against Penguins

by Tom Gulitti @tomgulittinhl / NHL.com Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Center Mike Fisher and right wing Craig Smith likely will return to the Nashville Predators lineup for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the PPG Paints Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

Coach Peter Laviolette repeated Monday morning that all players who accompanied the Predators to Pittsburgh are available to play, but would not speak specifically about his lineup. Fisher and Smith each participated in the Predators' optional morning skate and left the ice with the other players expected to play in Game 1.

Fisher hasn't played since being kneed in the head by Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson in the third period of Game 4 of the Western Conference Final on May 18. Smith hasn't played since Game 6 of the second round against the St. Louis Blues on May 7 because of a lower-body injury.

 

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Fisher's return would be helpful for the Predators with top center Ryan Johansen out for the remainder the Stanley Cup Playoffs following surgery on his left thigh. The Predators captain has no points in 14 playoff games this year, but his defensive play would be beneficial in matching against either of the Penguins top two centers, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.

Fisher is also one of the Predators' top faceoff men, ranking second on the team behind Johansen (54.4 percent) among players who have taken at least 25 draws in this postseason by winning 52.1 percent. Additionally, he's the only Nashville player with previous experience in the Stanley Cup Final having played for the Ottawa Senators in 2007.

"[Fisher's] our leader, a great two-way guy, great in the faceoff circle, a physical presence," center Colton Sissons said. "So we'd be happy to have him [back]. Our arms are open. We're ready for him to be back in our lineup."

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Smith, who has one assist in four games in this postseason, was evasive when asked if he feels well enough to play, replying "I look good. That's a start."

Smith acknowledged it has been difficult watching, but credited the Predators' depth with helping them reach the Final for the first time.

"We've been playing well," Smith said. "We've gotten scoring from different guys, so it's been fun to watch different guys pop in and get a goal or two. You can see their eyes light up. It's really been a pleasure."

Left wing Cody McLeod and right wing Miikka Salomaki appear to be most likely to sit out if Fisher and Smith play. Salomaki, who played in the last two games of the Western Conference Final, remained on the ice for extra work at the end of the morning skate.

McLeod, who has played in 12 consecutive games, looked to be one of the extra forwards at practice on Sunday, but did not remain out for extra work on Monday. He might be insurance in case right wing Colin Wilson, the only Nashville player who didn't participate in the optional morning skate, is unable to play.

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