The news hit home with perhaps as much force as the nasty blizzard that swirled around Scotiabank Place on a wintry Sunday afternoon.
In the midst of a five-game winning streak, the Ottawa Senators learned Mike Fisher has been sidelined with a strained oblique muscle suffered in the first period of Saturday’s 7-3 victory over the Atlanta Thrashers. Both Fisher and Senators head coach John Paddock suggested it isn’t likely the heart-and-soul centre will join the team for a two-game road trip to Boston and Atlanta later this week.
The Senators are already missing workhorse defenceman Anton Volchenkov (broken finger) and Patrick Eaves (separated shoulder), a valuable contributor up front.
“It’s a substantial loss,” said Paddock. “I don’t think you can put a value on it. There’s no positive in having three of our top 10 players out of the lineup.”
Fisher, who missed almost the entire pre-season while recovering from a groin injury suffered during the Stanley Cup final last spring, hasn’t exactly had the best of weeks. First he lost a tooth after being head-butted by Carolina’s Scott Walker during a fight in Ottawa’s 6-0 whitewashing of the Hurricanes last Wednesday.
Now there’s this. Fisher couldn’t suggest a timetable for his return, but said Sunday “I probably won’t make the road trip,” which begins Tuesday in Boston and concludes two nights later in Atlanta.
“It’s always frustrating going out with an injury,” he said. “The team’s playing well and things are going good. But I know as much as anyone that it’s part of the game. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I’m back. I just need some rest.”
The injury occurred during the first period, when Fisher took a hard hit into the boards. He went out for his next shift, but felt pain when he made a turning motion to defend against a Thrashers player.
“You don’t realize how much (you use) certain muscles,” said Fisher. “I’ve never had this type of injury, so I don’t know. Hopefully, it’ll settle down quickly but with some of these things, you never know, you don’t know how long (the recovery will take).”
Paddock agreed any injury related to the abdominal area can be a tricky to predict.
“When you twist and turn, it’s constant,” he said. “I don’t think you can play until you’re 100 per cent. If there’s one thing you do in the game of hockey, it’s twisting and turning. It’s like going out to play a game of golf with a twisted oblique. You couldn’t do it, because you’re twisting. He’s going to have to heal.”
In Fisher’s absence Saturday night, Antoine Vermette moved up to the second line, turned in a strong three-point night and was named the game’s first star. Paddock said those kind of efforts will be necessary with Fisher out of the lineup.
“You have to find different ways to win,” said Paddock. “Sometimes your approach has to change in how you want your team to play, and other individuals have to pick up the slack.
“(Vermette) rose to the occasion and was rewarded with a little bit of offensive production, too. He just has to play. There’s no more offence than normal expected out of him. He just has to be one of our top six forwards now.”