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Mike Fisher could play for Predators in Game 1 of Final

Nashville captain, forward Craig Smith expected to be available against Penguins

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

PITTSBURGH -- The Nashville Predators are not perfectly healthy entering their first Stanley Cup Final, but they are as healthy as they are going to be.

All of the Predators who made the trip to Pittsburgh, including center Mike Fisher and forward Craig Smith, are expected to be available for Game 1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports), coach Peter Laviolette said Sunday.

"Yeah, I feel good," Fisher said. "Ready to rock. Excited about Game 1. Can't wait."

Fisher, Nashville's captain, hasn't played since taking a knee to the head from Anaheim Ducks defenseman Josh Manson late in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final on May 18. He did came on the ice after the Predators clinched the series following a Game 6 win, and resumed skating with the Predators on Thursday.

Smith has one assist in four games this postseason. He hasn't played since Game 6 of the second round against the St. Louis Blues on May 7 because of a lower-body injury.

Fisher is the only player on Nashville's roster who has played in a Stanley Cup Final game, in 2007 with the Ottawa Senators, but that is not the only reason he is important to the Predators.

Though he has no points in 14 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, he is a key component of the Predators' depth at center, especially since top center Ryan Johansen was lost for the playoffs because of a left-thigh injury sustained late in Game 4 against Anaheim.

Facing Penguins centers Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin makes Fisher's return very timely for Laviolette and the Predators, and it should help centers Colton Sissons and Calle Jarnkrok handle the matchup.

"Certainly we'll miss Ryan," Laviolette said. "I don't think anybody can argue that. He was a big horse for us down the middle that was able to match up against anybody. We had to go a couple of games without Ryan. Our guys responded OK. I think Colton in that last game really stepped up. We put him in position. We've had to go without players all playoffs, from Kevin Fiala to guys missing in the lineup. Our guys have gotten it done.

"Certainly you're talking about a couple good centermen that we have to face. We had a couple good centermen last round that we had to face."

Though Laviolette used Sissons as his top center after Johansen was injured, general manager David Poile suggested that the matchup against Crosby and Malkin may lead the Predators to change things up in the Final.

"Well we're going to go to Plan B," Poile said, "which I can't reveal right now."

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