Fisher's making his point

DON BRENNAN

, Last Updated: 9:01 AM ET

The rust from a 14-game injury layoff now lying at his feet, "shut down" centre Mike Fisher is again putting up some numbers of his own.

Both offensively and -- at the expense of any Lady Byng consideration -- penalty minutes.

Since returning from a month-long stint on the IR with a damaged knee, Fisher has collected a point in five of six games, including a goal in each of the last two. He has managed this while spending more time than usual in the sin bin, more than doubling his PIMs total in the last four games from 12 to 25.

Along with supplying the Senators with an aggressive forechecking centre they sorely miss when he's absent, Fisher is front and middle man on a newly formed line that coach Bryan Murray tries to play against the opposition's top snipers.

With a never-ceases-to-amaze Daniel Alfredsson on one side and Peter Schaefer on the other, the unit performed that task flawlessly in a 4-0 victory over Florida Wednesday. Gary Roberts and Olli Jokinen were held to just one shot on goal, combined, and both were minus-3. The third member of the Panthers top troika, Chris Gratton, managed three shots and was a minus-2.

"I think putting that line together has been a good thing for us in that they match up against any offensive line on the other team, and they have the ability to make plays and score goals," Murray said after leading his team through practice in preparation for tomorrow's matinee meeting with the Atlanta Thrashers at The Bank. "(Fisher) is such a character guy, such a hard working player, very responsible ... the style we play, we really pressure the puck carrier, and Mike is real good at that because of his skating ability. But more than that, he's getting more comfortable with the puck."

Fisher, who has 11 goals and 18 assists in 44 games, is wearing the look of a playoff warrior already. He has scrapes under both eyes.

Fisher fought for the first time since a bout last March with Washington's Jeff Halpern when he responded to a Gratton spear at the back of his leg following another faceoff. Fisher tried to take off his own helmet for the scrap -- just as Halpern, who also wore a visor, did for their fight 11 months ago -- but he was unsuccessful.

Gratton was holding his right hand in pain afterward.

FAIR FIGHT

"Normally guys who fight take their visor off ... I couldn't get it off," said Fisher. "I wanted to make it fair. He knew. I told him."

Fisher, who also went with Sean Avery last season and has now had 14 fights since breaking into the NHL, said Gratton "just kind of took my legs out" to prompt his response.

"I just kinda didn't appreciate it," he said.

And that led him to visit an area of the rink he's hasn't seen a whole lot this season.

"You're allowed to take the body, you're allowed to do a lot of physical things in our game, but Mike is pretty smart out there as far as the use of the stick and that," Murray said of Fisher's infrequent time in the box.

"Where you get called more often now for penalty minutes is when you're not able to catch up to a guy and you reach and touch him with your stick. Mike doesn't have to do that.

"He's just a hard-nosed player, and hard-nosed players get away with playing the game right. I really think he just plays the game right."


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