The countdown to this season’s NHL trade deadline is on.
If one game means anything, though, it is difficult to imagine that any move — or moves — the Nashville Predators make between now and Monday can equal the combined impact of their last two deadline deals.
Playing together for the first time, center Mike Fisher and defenseman Hal Gill were prominent players in Tuesday’s 3-1 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, the team that eliminated the Predators from last season’s playoffs.
Fisher, the only player acquired in advance of the 2011 deadline, had a goal and two assists. Gill, the only player added so far this year, had an assist but more importantly matched up effectively with Canucks forward Ryan Kesler, a player who has been notoriously difficult for Nashville to stop in recent seasons.
“We have a lot of good defensemen on the team, but [Gill] comes in and he kind of solidifies that defensive position that we needed,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “It’s perfect that we can all work together to take down their top lines.”
Vancouver had gone 13 games without a regulation loss (10-0-3) and had won five straight, including playoff games, at Bridgestone Arena. The only goal the Western Conference’s best offensive team got on this night, however, came from a fourth-line forward who took advantage of a mistake Nashville made in its own end — and all that did was cut in half what was a Predators’ two-goal lead.
“We got the win and that’s all that really matters,” Gill said. “It’s playoff-style hockey, and it’s going to be like that from here on in so those battles are going to be bigger and more important. … You want to be in that position.”
Gill was acquired from Montreal on Friday but did not join the team in time for that night’s game at Detroit. He made his Predators debut Sunday at Dallas, a game Fisher missed because of illness.
Continued uncertainty regarding Fisher’s condition forced the recall of Chris Mueller on Tuesday morning. Mueller ultimately was scratched.
Fisher scored his team-leading 18th goal of the season and improved to 22 points (11 goals, 11 assists) in his last 21 games. He started the scoring with a power play goal and then teamed with Sergei Kostitsyn for a successful 2-on-1 that resulted in a shorthanded goal for Kostitsyn and a 2-0 lead. His pass through the neutral zone eventually led to David Legwand’s third-period insurance goal with just under three minutes to play in the game.
“I felt a lot better than I thought I was going to be,” Fisher said. “Judging by the morning, I was pretty tired after a short skate, but I felt a lot better [during the game]. Guys played good and to get that goal kind of gives you a boost too.”
Kesler had five goals and six assists in the six games of last season’s Western Conference semifinal series and had two more goals in this season’s first three meetings. He had no points on three shots while matched up against the 6-foot-7, 241-pound Gill, who played his first home game as a Predator.
Gill’s presence allowed Nashville’s top defensive pair of Suter and Shea Weber to match up with the Canucks’ top line, which features twins Daniel and Henrik Sedin. The offensively gifted brothers also failed to produce any points.
“[Gill] was solid for us back there,” Weber said. “He’s a big body. He takes up a lot of space. As everyone saw [Tuesday] night, he’s able to play that physical game.”
• Goalie Pekka Rinne made 32 saves and improved to 33-13-6 on the season. He equaled his career-high win total, which he set a year ago He has done so in 10 fewer games.
• Right wing Patric Hornqvist missed his fourth straight game with an injury. Coach Barry Trotz said earlier in the week that Hornqvist could return as soon as Thursday against St. Louis (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena).