Stepping up to the Mike

Mike Fisher is making the case to be named the No. 2 centre for the Ottawa Senators this season....

Mike Fisher is making the case to be named the No. 2 centre for the Ottawa Senators this season. (Ottawa Sun File/Tony Caldwell)

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

Centre Mike Fisher simply asks: Why not him?

With all the talk during training camp that rookie Alexei Kaigorodov would likely be the team's No. 2 centre, the veteran Fisher, a Selke finalist who finished with 22 goals last season, told the Sun yesterday that he feels he's capable of fulfilling the role.

Fisher will get that chance tonight when he centres Peter Schaefer and Daniel Alfredsson against the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada.

Kaigorodov arrived with a bluster after a couple of strong seasons in Russia, but he hasn't looked comfortable in the pre-season.

That means the search for somebody to play behind Jason Spezza is still on. Can Fisher be No. 2?

"I don't see why not," Fisher said following a 40-minute practice at the Bell Sensplex. "I played with (Chris) Neil and Schaefer most of last year. To get the chance to play with a guy like Alfie wouldn't be a big adjustment for me.

"I feel like I am a guy who can fill that role for this team and I'd like the opportunity to do that job. I think I would be comfortable there. It looked like from practice (yesterday) I'm going to get that opportunity (tonight) and I look forward to that."

Fisher, who is going into his eighth season with Ottawa, hasn't expressed his feelings to coach Bryan Murray, but it has become obvious to everybody involved that Kaigorodov might be in over his head at this point.

Yes, the 23-year-old Russian centre has plenty of skill, but he needs time to adjust to the NHL game and that could mean a stint with the AHL's Binghamton Senators once the dust has settled and final cuts are made.

"Anytime you bring a young player in -- particularly a player from Europe who isn't used to the ice surface and the level of competition -- it will take them longer than normal to make the adjustment," said Murray.

"Now, saying that, he's going to have to play better in the next couple of games and the next couple of opportunities just to show us that he's making progress. I think he will. With the big group out there (yesterday) for practice, he looks like he gets up and down the ice okay and he makes good passes. It's just the damn opponents get in the way some time during games. We've got to get him used to doing that type of thing in the games."

Kaigorodov, to nobody's surprise, survived the first round of cuts yesterday. GM John Muckler and Murray want to get a couple of more looks at him over the course of the final three exhibition games.

Kaigorodov, who skated with Josh Hennessy and Serge Payer yesterday, will be in the lineup tonight. Murray said Kaigorodov will play two of the final three exhibition games before a decision is made on his status.

"He's going to play and we'll find out," said Murray. "We kept five lines for a reason."

Starting the regular season with Fisher as the No. 2 man might be the easiest solution at this point, especially since making a trade would likely be difficult.

Fisher played head-to-head against the Flyers' Peter Forsberg last Saturday in Philadelphia and finished with a goal and an assist.

"I just want to contribute as much as I can," said Fisher.


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