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Fisher ready for grind of one more run at Cup with Predators

Center changes plan, decides to come out of retirement after falling short with Nashville last year

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

Does he have the legs? The lungs?

The heart?

Those are the questions about center Mike Fisher coming out of retirement with the Nashville Predators for the stretch run and the Stanley Cup Playoffs, as much of a feel-good story as it might be.

 

[RELATED: Fisher plans to end retirement, rejoin Predators]

 

His heart wasn't in it when he announced his retirement on Aug. 3 at age 37. His heart wasn't aching to return when this season began without him -- or even when Predators coach Peter Laviolette first raised the idea.

Though the Predators insisted they didn't pressure Fisher and he decided on his own, it sounds like they talked him into it -- or at least helped him talk himself into it. Though general manager David Poile said Fisher had "unfinished business," Fisher said he was finished until a few days ago.

"After I retired, I was done," Fisher said.

Fisher didn't work out much. He didn't start skating until Wednesday, when he put on his old gear, went for a spin at Bridgestone Arena and joked at a press conference afterward that he was out of breath. He intends to get in shape on his own and sign a contract before the NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 26.

"I'm sure it was a combination of a lot of things that got Mike over the hump to make this decision," Poile said. "But what's really important here is that he did make the decision and he does want to come back and he has the fire to come back, the will to come back."

Video: Fisher takes to the ice as he returns from retirement

Poile is right. That is what is really important here.

Because think about that: He had to get over the hump?

Fisher had played 17 seasons in the NHL and come oh-so-close to winning the Cup for the first time. The Predators had gone further than ever before, losing the Final in six games to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Nashville had come alive like never before, with tens of thousands of fans flooding Broadway for games. He was captain of a team poised to compete for the Cup again.

Still, amid all that, he walked away.

"That's what I felt like was the right decision then," Fisher said.

Fisher said he'd get antsy, because he was used to competing and being around the guys. But he was busier than he thought he would be -- building a house, doing a hunting show, chasing a 3-year-old. He was enjoying it.

It wasn't like he couldn't live without hockey and was dreaming of a comeback.

"I never really thought it was a possibility," Fisher said.

Poile said the Predators brass talked in December and shot around ideas. Fisher's name came up. Poile said they asked, "Do you think he's happy?" Laviolette said he thought, "Did he miss it?" Laviolette spoke to Fisher and let him know he had an open invitation to return.

"I did not seek a yes-or-no answer," Laviolette said.

That's essentially what he got, though, and it wasn't a yes.

"I really didn't think I was going to do it, to be honest," Fisher said. "It was pretty much a no. But as it got closer and I had some other conversations, it turned to a yes."

Video: The crew discuss Mike Fisher rejoining the Predators

Fisher talked to family and friends. He said his wife, country singer Carrie Underwood, asked him every day what he was going to do and wanted him to return. Defenseman Roman Josi, who succeeded Fisher as captain, reached out, and they met.

Finally, after all that, Fisher decided to do it.

"This wasn't the plan," Fisher said. "Someone asked me last year after I retired, jokingly, 'Well, you can come back for the playoffs.' I said, 'Not a chance.' I said, 'I would never want to not play the whole season and [not] go through the grind with the guys and come in for a few games and play the playoffs.' That was never my intent. And sure enough, here I am."

Fisher laughed.

"There's plenty of grind left," Laviolette said.

That there is. It will be hard to hop into the stretch run. It will be harder to go through four rounds of the playoffs.

But at least Fisher eventually made up his mind.

"Anything he sets his mind to, I know he can do," Poile said.

And if you're the Predators, you have to hope that the more Fisher skates, the more the legs, the lungs and the heart will get where they need to be. Last season, he was their No. 2 center with Ryan Johansen. With the additions of Kyle Turris and Nick Bonino, he could be their No. 3 or No. 4 center, making them far stronger down the middle.

"That was never the plan all along, for me to come back," Fisher said. "But the more I thought and prayed about it, went through the whole emotions of kind of revisiting retiring again, the more I knew that it was something I wanted to do.

"I believe this team is built to win. We have a very good chance. So that is part of the reason I want to come back and compete and be a part of it. But we didn't win last year, and it was the best time of my career.

"I believe that this year can be our year. That's what I want to be a part of, and have some fun."

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