|Senators centre Mike Fisher is off to a hot start and he credits linemate Alex Kovalev with being the kind of assist man any good goal scorer needs (Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images).
Mike Fisher is your basic steak and potatoes kind of guy.
But he'll happily keep dining on the fancy buffet of passes that Alex Kovalev keeps laying out in front of him. Ask Fisher about his impressive goal-scoring outburst so far this season and it doesn't take long for the Ottawa Senators centre to credit his highly creative linemate for helping him deliver the goods.
"(Kovalev) is so crafty and I just try to get out of his way and let him find the opening," Fisher said on the morning after his two-goal performance lifted the Senators to a 3-2 triumph over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Place. "I try to find those (open) areas to get shots and score."
Fisher has been finding the back of the net at a more rapid pace than ever before in his 10 years in a Senators uniform. With nine goals in 18 games so far this season, he's on pace to easily surpass his career high of 23, which he recorded in 2007-08. It's not exactly a coincidence that it's happened with Kovalev on his wing for the majority of the current campaign.
While Kovalev has produced somewhat modest numbers so far (four goals, six assists) – at least by his standards – Senators head coach Cory Clouston said the dynamic Russian's mere presence has played a major hand in elevating Fisher's offensive totals. Not to mention the kind of slick tape-to-tape pass that set up his game-winner against the Leafs.
"We can’t just say one guy’s playing well," Clouston said after the Senators' practice earlier today at Scotiabank Place. "In order for one guy to have success, somebody else has to be doing something proper and to me, that (winning goal, which started with a key drive to the net by Nick Foligno
) was a perfect example of four or five guys being on the same page to create that goal."
Kovalev, who surely knows a hot hand when he sees one, plans to keep doing what he can to put Fisher into position to add to his goal collection.
"Fish is a good shooter and I try to get it to him and make him a successful guy," said Kovalev. "Everything is going in for him now, so I might as well just pass it to him."
Sounds like a plan to Fisher, too.
"He’s a guy that’s so good with the puck and I’m trying to get open and shoot as much as I can," said Fisher. "I know (Kovalev) will always find me and I try to do the same. I feel like it’s getting better (between us)."
"Fish is a good shooter and I try to get it to him and make him a successful guy. Everything is going in for him now, so I might as well just pass it to him." - Alex Kovalev
Not that Kovalev doesn't have it in him to produce a bushel full of goals himself. The onetime 44-goal scorer with the Pittsburgh Penguins (in 2000-01) knows his time will come to hit the scoresheet for the Senators a little more frequently.
"Definitely, I’ve got to work more on expanding my game and getting into position more and getting a little bit more shots," said Kovalev. "They will come. I know that. But the most important (thing) is to have some success as a line."
Volchenkov's return on hold
Defenceman Anton Volchenkov (right elbow) continued to skate on his own this morning but his return to the lineup – which the Senators hoped might come as soon as this weekend – is still at least a week away.
"He might have taken a little bit of a setback," Clouston revealed this morning. "He didn’t respond as well as we thought two days ago. (There is) a little bit more soreness in there. We had wished or hoped he would be ready this weekend, but that’s not the case. Probably mid-week (next week) is what we’re hoping now."Around the boards
Captain Daniel Alfredsson
and forward Chris Neil
took a rest day away from the practice ice, but both are expected to be in the lineup Thursday night, when the Penguins visit Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., TSN2, Team 1200) ... Tomorrow's game will be the 800th of defenceman Chris Phillips
' career, ranking him third on the Senators' all-time service list behind only Alfredsson (950) and Wade Redden (838) ... Fewer than 3,000 tickets
remain for the game, the final scheduled visit of the season by Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and the Stanley Cup-champion Penguins to Ottawa.