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'A first for me'

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Senators centre Mike Fisher is off to one of his hottest career starts and rates among the team's leaders in goals and points (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images).

Mike Fisher admits he's never had it anywhere near this good.

The Ottawa Senators centre has seen all types of players line up on each side of him during a National Hockey League career that has now reached its 10th season. But nothing can compare to the talent that surrounds him right now.

"I've played with grinders and fighters in my career," the 29-year-old Fisher said when asked about what's been like to have captain Daniel Alfredsson and Alex Kovalev as his wingers. "I've played with skilled guys and I'm fortunate now to be playing with some of the top skilled guys in the league. That's kind of a first for me."

So, too, is Fisher's current standing on the team's statistics charts. His five goals rank him in a tie for second on the team (with Alfredsson), one behind team leader Milan Michalek. With 11 points in 12 games, he's also No. 2 in overall Senators scoring behind Alfredsson (5-11-16).

Ask Fisher about his increased early production – his career high in points is 48, recorded in 2006-07 – and he immediately credits the opportunity provided by his current linemates.

"One of the bigger reasons is playing with Alfie and Kovalev," Fisher said after the Senators' practice earlier today at the Bell Sensplex. "I feel like Cory (Clouston) has given me a big role in a lot of different situations and it’s a credit to that, too."

Clouston, the Senators' head coach, believes Fisher should save a good helping of credit for himself.

"(Fisher) is getting the opportunity and he’s making the most of it," said Clouston. "He’s complemented his linemates very well. He’s a guy, in my opinion, who makes people better around him because of his physical play and he creates open ice for other players."

"I've played with grinders and fighters in my career. I've played with skilled guys and I'm fortunate now to be playing with some of the top skilled guys in the league." - Mike Fisher
His numbers also jump out because they're such a welcome sign after his struggles of 2008-09, when Fisher totalled 13 goals and 32 points, both totals his lowest in a Senators uniform since 2002-03. He didn't record his fifth goal until game No. 43 last season, and that was after enduring a 19-game goal-less drought.

But Clouston's more aggressive system has brought out the best in Fisher, who feels he's also feeding off the team's improved play.

"A lot of it has to do with the way the team’s playing," he said. "The team is playing a different style and we’re more successful. I’ve been the (beneficiary) of playing with a better team than we were last year. I think everyone was frustrated by the way we were playing (at the beginning of 2008-09) and now the way we play is more my style."

Winchester nearing season debut

Forward Jesse Winchester, whose two-week conditioning stint with the Binghamton Senators ends tomorrow, could see his first action of the season with the big club by the weekend. Winchester has been sidelined since training camp with a right knee injury, but Clouston was impressed with his play when he went to see him play for the B-Sens last Friday against the Rochester Americans.

"He showed some creativity and poise with the puck that maybe we didn't see up here," said Clouston. "Down there, he had a little more confidence and he played well. We play Thursday and again on (Saturday). If things go the way we think they will, he'll probably get into one of those games."

Around the boards

Centre Jason Spezza (upper body) didn't skate with the team today and remains doubtful for Thursday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200) ... Fewer than 3,000 tickets remain for Thursday's game, while 2,000 are left for Saturday's visit by the New Jersey Devils ... The game against the Lightning has been designated as Canadian Forces Appreciation Night and fans are encouraged to wear red to show their support for our troops.

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