Forward Mike Fisher
and defenseman Francis Bouillon
will make their long-awaited returns to game action today when the Nashville Predators host San Jose at 7 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena.
Fisher, 31, who Nashville acquired in February from Ottawa, had 19 points in 39 total games with the Predators in 2010-11, including three goals and six points during Nashville's first round playoff series win against Anaheim. He underwent offseason shoulder surgery and has missed Nashville’s first seven games of 2011-12.
“I’ve been skating since August and have been shooting,” Fisher said. “Conditioning-wise, I feel ready and strong. I should be good to go … I just have to build confidence in it. I’ve been trying to do that in practice but it’s different than in a game. It will be good to get in there and see how it feels.”Francis Bouillon
, 36, played in 44 games last season but suffered a concussion. He needed more than six months to recover.
“It’s going to be an exciting night for me,” Bouillon said. “I’ve been waiting for this night for a long time. I want to be involved and help the team to win. I’ve come pretty far and it’s great to be here.”
The addition of Fisher and Bouillon will add immediate experience and talent to the Predators, who feature the youngest roster in the NHL.
“Number one, (Fisher and Bouillon) have to just get back comfortable playing the game of hockey,” Trotz said. “They haven’t played in a long time. The train is moving and they’re sort of at a standstill. Both of them missed training camp. Both of them have skated on their own, practiced a little bit. But for the most part, it’s not the same. They are both veteran guys who will play a smart, simple game and not try to do too much. Both of them have worked extremely hard to get to a point to jump back in the lineup.”
Trotz said rookie Craig Smith
will center Fisher and Sergei Kostitsyn
, which will limit faceoffs for Fisher as he continues to get more comfortable with his shoulder. Fisher and Kostitsyn found chemistry together down the backstretch of last season and were integral not only in Nashville's run to the playoffs, but their line (with Patric Hornqvist
at the time) was invaluable during the Preds first round series win over the Anaheim Ducks.
As for Bouillon, Trotz said he will work in the third pairing, with the possibility of moving up as time progresses. Before the injury, Bouillon had established himself as a steady top-four defenseman, averaging 20:13 of ice time on the season.
“I’ve played with pretty much everyone since I’ve been here,” Bouillon said. “I played with (Teemu) Laakso in my first year before he was sent down. I’ve played with (Kevin) Klein and (Shea) Weber. I don’t mind playing with anyone.”
The flexibility and familiarity of Nashville’s defensemen should allow for an easy transition for Bouillon. Jonathon Blum
has been on the second pairing with Kevin Klein
, but he and Laakso made up the top defensive pairing in Milwaukee for most of last season.
“It seems I’ve played with almost all the guys here,” Blum said. “Bouillon is just going to make our team better, on and off the ice. Just to have his presence on the back end, anchoring down whatever pair, it will definitely make us better as a team.”Roster Notes:
With today's moves the Preds active roster stands at the maximum of 23 players, which means Nashville does not need to make any immediate roster moves. Predators coach Barry Trotz added that if forward Martin Erat
returns from injury soon, then a roster move will have to be made. However, the extra bodies mean the Preds will be able to scratch two healthy forwards and one healthy defenseman, creating more internal competition for game time and allowing the coaches more flexibility to match rosters on an opponent-by-opponent basis.