RALEIGH, N.C. -- Senators centre Mike Fisher has been shooting up the hit parade.
While Chris Neil leads the league with 84 hits, his close buddy Fisher isn't far behind with 79 and that's a big reason why the Senators have started to climb the standings in the Eastern Conference.
"I didn't feel like I was playing bad because I was getting a lot of chances and they weren't going in," said Fisher. "I was still trying to create and bring something. I feel like my game is better for sure. I've been trying to be physical and just create stuff. Make sure I'm skating with energy. Overall, I feel better."
With the club struggling early in the season, was Fisher putting too much pressure on himself ?
"I expect a lot from myself. I expect myself to score more than I have," said Fisher, who hit the post on a short-handed breakaway opportunity in Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. "I've got to let it be and worry about playing the best I can every night. If I do that, things will come. When the team is playing better, everybody has more confidence."
NO TIMETABLE: D Anton Volchenkov didn't skate yesterday and there is no timetable for his return from a lower body injury. Coach Bryan Murray said he'll hold an optional skate this morning at the RBC Center and if Volchenkov tells the club he's ready, then he'll be in the lineup against the Carolina Hurricanes. "We're hoping. He's a little better today, but we're going to have to wait until game time almost," said Murray. "It's been bothering him for a bit. If he can play we're going to play him. If he's going to aggravate him more, we're just going to have him wait." ... The decision to start Martin Gerber tonight is no reflection on Ray Emery, who faced only 18 shots in Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Lightning. "Ray played really well. There was nothing wrong with his performance," said Murray. "The one thing I do think is sometimes he's got to get out of the net and watch a game, get refocused and go back in."
AROUND THE RINKS: Now that the Hawks have fired coach Trent Yawney and replaced him with assistant Denis Savard, expect to see changes on the ice. There are a lot of whisper the Hawks are going to bring in a centre to replace the injured Michal Handzus, who is gone for the season. The Hawks would like to get Tampa F Vinny Prospal, who has been playing on the wing. The Bolts don't want to give up C Vinny Lecavalier or C Brad Richards, but parting with Prospal and his $1.9 million salary is a strong possibility ... The Sens could get a chance to see their old friend John Grahame in net tonight. Grahame has suited up for the last two Hurricanes games and backstopped the club to a 5-1 victory over Boston Friday. Grahame, signed by Carolina in the off-season, was the Bolts goalie of record in last spring's playoff series against the Sens. He played four games in the five-game series, finishing with a 4.79 goals-against average and an .847 save percentage.
AT THE POINT: Despite not scoring with a man advantage against Tampa, Ottawa's power play has improved. "The power play wasn't bad at the start of the year," said C Jason Spezza. "We went a bunch of games without scoring and then we tried to do stuff that was out of character. We've just pretty much gone back to basics." ... Goalie coach Ron Low has noticed an improvement in Gerber's game. "He's moving across the net a lot better," said Low. "We did a bunch of one-timers with (Dany Heatley) this morning and I said, 'What are you seeing there now?' and (Heatley) said, 'Well, not the same as it was a week ago.' Hopefully, it carries into a win."