|With so many of his high-scoring teammates on the injury list, Senators centre Mike Fisher knows he has to pick up his own production (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images).
He's still far from being the last man standing.
But with a wealth of their top scoring threats sidelined by injury, the Ottawa Senators are increasingly casting their eyes toward centre Mike Fisher for a jump in scoring production. So, too, apparently, are opposing teams who suddenly don't have to contend with the threats provided by Ottawa captain Daniel Alfredsson
, Jason Spezza
and Milan Michalek
All of which ratchets up the pressure on Fisher, the Senators' current scoring leader with 32 points. His 15 goals rank one behind Michalek for the team lead but he's now gone 13 games without finding the back of the net (he's collected four assists in that time frame).
"I’m not playing with the confidence that I was earlier (in the season), that’s for sure," Fisher admitted earlier today as the Senators began preparations for their matchup with the Thrashers on Tuesday night at Philips Arena in Atlanta (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200). "I know that I’m relied upon to produce more offensively. It’s been tough lately, but I know that I can be better."
Senators head coach Cory Clouston acknowledged that with Spezza – the team's No. 1 centre – on the shelf, opposing teams are targeting Fisher more closely. Especially given the veteran pivot's hot start to the season.
"Even though Spezz was struggling, he draws a lot of attention," said Clouston. "He generally draws the best players from the opposition. That’s kind of falling on Mike’s shoulders right now and that’s where the depth of a team makes such a difference.
"Right now, (opponents) can focus on one or two guys… when you have Michalek, Spezza and Alfie in the lineup, there’s a lot more guys that they have to focus on."
But when presented with that argument, Fisher made it clear it's on him to pick up his own game – and, by extension, his teammates' fortunes along with it.
"I’m not playing with the confidence that I was earlier (in the season), that’s for sure. I know that I’m relied upon to produce more offensively. It’s been tough lately, but I know that I can be better." - Mike Fisher
"It could be the case, but I feel like my game hasn’t been what it needs to be or what it was, for sure," he said. "I’ve got to start skating and getting in those areas (around the net) and creating. I haven’t made good decisions with the puck offensively lately.
"Maybe part of it is pressing and overthinking, so I’ve just got to get back to doing simple things. It’ll come and I’ll get rolling again."
With an eye toward also giving a boost to the Senators' ailing power play, which has sunk to the bottom of the league rankings in terms of efficiency, Clouston tried Fisher on the point during the team's practice earlier today.
"We're trying to utilize his shot," said Clouston. "I know he’s played back there a couple of times in the past so if and when he gets an opportunity, hopefully he can pull the trigger."Around the boards
Defenceman Filip Kuba
(upper body) didn't take part in today's practice. While Clouston said the Czech blueliner is "doubtful" to face the Thrashers, he did acknowledge Kuba could be good to go on Thursday, when the Senators face the Rangers in New York (7 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200) ... Alfredsson (shoulder) and Spezza (knee) both skated today back in Ottawa and Clouston suggested they might be on hand Saturday in Montreal, although not likely in an active capacity. "As far as playing, I think Alfie is ahead of Spezz," said Clouston. "That’s just because of the type of injury. I’m assuming with Alfie, (within) 10 days… somewhere in that time frame. Sooner would be nice." ... The Senators' lines this morning: Alex Kovalev-Peter Regin-Ryan Shannon, Nick Foligno-Mike Fisher-Chris Neil, Jarkko Ruutu-Chris Kelly-Jonathan Cheechoo and Zack Smith-Martin St. Pierre-Shean Donovan