TORONTO -- The pre-season is no longer a priority for Mike Fisher.
The Senators centre, who signed a five-year extension worth $21 million (all terms US) last week, said yesterday wants to make sure his injured groin is feeling 100% for the regular-season opener in Toronto on Oct. 3.
Fisher was on the ice for the club's morning skate yesterday at Scotiabank Place before the one-hour flight here, but he isn't sure he'll suit up either Saturday against Montreal or Sunday in Washington when the Senators close out the pre-season.
"It's taking some time because it's an injury that happened a while ago, so you can't rush into it by any means just to get in a game," said Fisher. "It has to be good all year. I'm just being smart. I'm trying to get back into it as quickly as possible.
"It's not a priority to get into exhibition games. It'd be nice to play one before you get into the grind, but if it doesn't happen then that's fine. My main focus is Game 1 and being ready and healthy for that."
Fisher first suffered the injury during the Stanley Cup final against the Anaheim Ducks last June and didn't give it enough rest in the off-season. He then reinjured it while training.
Groin injuries have been a problem around the league this month. Leafs winger Kyle Wellwood is having surgery for a groin tear and will be lost for the first 3-4 weeks of the season, while Penguins star Sidney Crosby also left practice early yesterday with a sore groin.
Doctors want Fisher to be cautious so the injury doesn't force him to miss an extended period.
"I was getting some sharp pain. Now, it's just some dull pain that's there," said Fisher. "I'm working through that. I'm just trying to push it as much as I can and see how it responds. For the most part, it's been pretty good and I haven't really suffered any setbacks.
"But with an injury like this you're seeing guys around the league tearing them and doing things and that's the last thing you want to do, so you've got to be really careful."
Senators C Jason Spezza said his status as a restricted free agent next July 1 is not a concern. Last summer, Group II free agents Dustin Penner (Anaheim) and Thomas Vanek (Buffalo) received hefty offers from the Edmonton Oilers, who ended up landing Penner for $4.25 million a year for five years, but were unsuccessful in signing Vanek as the Sabres matched the $50-million, seven-year bid. It's safe to say Spezza, who will make $4.5 million this season, will likely garner some attention from potential suitors. "I'm just here to play," said Spezza, one of the Senators' five potential restricted free agents -- the others being Antoine Vermette, Patrick Eaves, Andrej Meszaros and Brian McGrattan. "The contract stuff is going to sort itself out. We've got a bunch of guys who are up this year. Our focus has to be on winning games. I'm not worried about it. I'm definitely in a good position with some of those contracts that were signed in the summer. You just worry about playing. You play well and you get rewarded. The better I play, the better contract I'll get." Spezza is just one potential issue for the Senators, who also face losing LW Dany Heatley, D Wade Redden and C Chris Kelly to unrestricted free agency next summer.
OFF THE GLASS
Ottawa G Ray Emery, recovering from off-season wrist surgery, skated yesterday and told TSN he wouldn't rule out playing tonight against the Flyers. "It's feeling better and better," said Emery. "It's getting to a point where it's strong, but I'm cautious with it. I'm not sure yet, but there's a possibility I'll be playing (tonight)." ... Captain Daniel Alfredsson was a late scratch last night against the Leafs. Club officials said he wasn't "feeling well." F Denis Hamel took Alfredsson's spot on the roster ... Redden didn't skate yesterday because he's still bothered by a stiff back. He's questionable for tonight's home game against the Flyers.