Fisher's funk nothing new

CHRIS STEVENSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:54 AM ET

Mike Fisher at least scored some points with a joke yesterday.

The veteran centre is without a goal or assist in nine games to start this season and it was suggested that part of the problem is he is being weighed down by that noted bag of hammers, captain Daniel Alfredsson.

"Yeah, Alfie's not cutting it," Fisher said with a rueful laugh. "I can't even blame that."

Fisher's pointless streak coincides with him embarking on a five-year, $21-million (all terms US) deal which pays him $6 million this season. The optics are horrible, though all those folks out there expecting Fisher to be much more than a 20-goal scorer haven't been paying attention.

He'll probably still wind up with his 20 this year. Fisher is not and never will be a natural, consistent scorer.

He scored 23 last season despite scoring goals in just five of the last 30 games and battling through a chronic groin injury. He had a stretch last season in the second half where he went 14 games without a point. Going back to last season, he has two goals and one assist in his last 20 games and four goals and two assists in his last 39 games.

By all accounts, he at least had a few chances Saturday night against the Lightning while trying to keep Bolts star Vincent Lecavalier in check. The Fisher line, with Alfredsson on the right and rookie Jesse Winchester on the left, will likely be asked to face Caps prodigal star Alex Ovechkin tonight.

"I felt bad the last game because he set me up for a couple of great chances," said Alfredsson. "I told him, 'Too bad I'm all Swedish and no finish.' He's playing good and I liked the way our line played in Tampa, playing a little more checking role, we outchanced Lecavalier's line pretty good. I don't know if we'll get that assignment (tonight) against Ovechkin, but if we do, I think we'll be up to the task."

Senators coach Craig Hartsburg liked what he saw from Fisher, too.

"It was probably his best game. He did a good job defensively against Lecavalier's line. He created some scoring chances not only for himself, but for his linemates. I thought he had a strong game. If he can continue on that path, he'll start to see some rewards as will the team in some goals and assists."

Fisher leaves it all out on the ice and is universally well-liked and that saves him from the heat somebody like, say, Radek Bonk, would have been getting had he had a start like Fisher's this season.

Fisher tries, he cares and his loved by most Senators fans, many of whom would have screamed bloody murder if one of the few guys who actually hit somebody was allowed to leave as a free agent.

So, Senators GM Bryan Murray anted up to buy Fisher out of his impending unrestricted free agency.

Fisher got his big deal because he plays with heart and energy, two qualities which have been sadly lacking in Ottawa over the years and made him standout among his teammates.

Would have he got that kind of deal anywhere else?

Not likely.

Some players give a hometown discount.

Fisher got the hometown bonus.

HEAR AND THERE

The Senators ended the tiresome Alexander Nikulin saga yesterday by trading the sour Russian, who was with Binghamton of the AHL, to the Coyotes for farmhand Drew Fata, a tough 25-year-old defenceman who's the younger brother of former NHLer Rico Fata. "(Nikulin) felt he did not get a legitimate chance to play in the NHL," said Murray. Fata, 6-foot-1 and 220 lbs., has played most of his career in the AHL, though he scored his only NHL goal against the Senators March 15, 2007. That must have stuck in the Senators' minds. "Word is he's a real hard-working, competitive kid," Murray said of Fata. Nikulin has been whining about being in the minors and demanded a trade, threatening to go back to Russia if he wasn't dealt ... Thank goodness for the Coyotes. They also took F Alexei Kaigorodov (remember him?) off the Senators' hands.


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