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Preds Practice Ponderings: October 24

Fisher, Rinne Discuss Weekend Illness Bouts, Preds Make World Series Picks

by Brooks Bratten @brooksbratten / NashvillePredators.com

Mike Fisher knew it wasn't going to happen.

When he awoke on Saturday morning, less than 12 hours after he watched two of his teammates leave their game against Detroit due to illness - with another handful playing through it - his symptoms were on full display. With a game against the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins on tap that evening, the Nashville Predators captain was certain he would need a replacement in the lineup.

And he wasn't the only one.

Fisher, along with fellow forwards Colton Sissons and Craig Smith, plus goaltender Pekka Rinne, all missed Saturday's game - and eventual 5-1 victory - due to illness brought on by a case of food poisoning that affected a number of players on the Preds roster.

As General Manager David Poile and Head Coach Peter Laviolette addressed the media Saturday morning and delivered the news, both men acknowledged the fact that with all of their experience in the game, this was a first.

Count Fisher among those who had no idea what to make of it all.

"I've seen a few guys go down, but I've never seen eight guys in one night get sick. That was crazy," Fisher said. "We weren't laughing that guys were sick, but it was just comical that something like that would happen. But guys played well both games, played hard and it was great way to win there Saturday night."

Rinne says it was worse for him late Friday night into Saturday, but he actually started feeling the effects "midway through the game," which makes his 38-save performance on Friday against the Red Wings even more impressive.

"I tried not to think about it," Rinne said. "I knew that [backup goaltender Marek Mazanec] was sick, he was already sick, so I just wanted to battle through it. I tried to stay in my own space a little bit, I didn't want to talk to anybody or mention it to anyone, so I just tried to focus and not think about it too much and just try to battle through it. Like all the guys are saying, they've never seen anything like it, I've never seen anything like it."

So instead of facing the Penguins Saturday night, Rinne watched his fellow Finn, rookie netiminder Juuse Saros - who was on emergency recall from Milwaukee - stop 34 of 35 shots to collect his first NHL victory, much to the excitement of his countryman.

"He just looked really poised, looked really comfortable," Rinne said of Saros. "[Pittsburgh scored early], but the rest of the night, I felt that he just looked super comfortable. he's obviously he's agile, he's fast and he played to his strengths, but at the same time he's really patient and looked really calm in net. I was really happy to see that. It's always a big deal when you get your first career NHL win, so it was nice to get that for Juuse."

Sure, the victory over the Penguins would've been enough cause for celebration, but considering the Preds did it with five players in the lineup who had been in Milwaukee the night before, it really didn't matter who the opponent was.

"I think more what took over the fact that they were the defending champs is just what we were dealing with ourselves internally, not only the Detroit game, but just trying to put it together from a player standpoint on who was going to be available or not," Laviolette said. "The guys who went into the lineup did a terrific job, and the guys that got called up helped out, guys coming back and playing after the sickness, so that to me stands out at little bit more.

"But for that reason, I thought it was a pretty good win, and we needed it at the time. You're sitting there 1-3 with a chance to go 1-4, but to pull it back to 2-3 I think was important."

Forward Austin Watson, among those who departed Milwaukee a little before 7 a.m. on Saturday morning to catch a flight to Chicago before flying to Nashville, did his part in the victory and was more than willing to help, considering the circumstances.

"For us coming up that morning to be able to come in and add some energy, add some life and just do what we could do to help the team win, that was great," Watson said. "Guys stepped up and it feels good when the odds are kind of stacked against you a little bit to come out on top."

There are still 77 games to go on the regular-season schedule - which starts back up again Wednesday night in Anaheim - but perhaps the Preds can look back on the last few days sometime soon and remember the night in Detroit, and then Nashville, when they simply got it done.

"The guys played really hard under the circumstances, and it shows what kind of group we have here," Fisher said. "We're digging deep and finding ways; that's a great sign."

Peanuts and Crackerjack:

The overwhelming majority would like to see an end to the curse.

Out of six players asked in the Preds locker room on Monday, five picked the Chicago Cubs to capture their first World Series title since 1908 when they begin play against the Cleveland Indians tomorrow night.

Some gave a simple answer, while others had their reasons.

"I feel like I want to root for the Cubs with the curse and everything, but maybe if they do lose, maybe it's got to have something to do with the curse, something weird happened," forward Austin Watson explained.

"Cubs in five," forward Craig Smith said. "I want to see it, let's do it, I'm Cubs all the way."

Forward Cody Bass and defensemen Ryan Ellis and Matt Irwin were also pro-Cubs. The lone Cleveland supporter, Captain Mike Fisher, had a simple answer, a loss still fresh on his mind.

"I'll go for Cleveland because they beat my Blue Jays."

Notes:

The four players who missed Saturday's game due to illness, goaltender Pekka Rinne and forwards Mike Fisher, Colton Sissons and Craig Smith, all returned to practice on Monday.

Defenseman Matt Irwin, who was recalled from Milwaukee on Monday morning, was also on the ice. Forwards Austin Watson and Harry Zolnierczyk, who were among those recalled prior to Saturday's game, will remain with the team and travel out to California on Tuesday with the club.

"We're just making sure we have the numbers that we need," Laviolette said. "We have [Cody] Bass on Injured Reserve for a little bit, we have [Miikka] Salomaki and [Anthony] Bitetto out, so our numbers are down and we're going on a trip, so we just wanted to make sure we have bodies in place."

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