No one said it was going to be easy, and that includes Mike Fisher.
Even the Nashville Predators center had no idea, though, how difficult — and lengthy — the rehabilitation from offseason shoulder surgery would be.
“I wouldn’t wish this recovery on anyone,” he said Monday. “It’s so slow. I’ve worked hard through the summer to get it better, and it’s just on its own time. There’s nothing you can do. Other injuries you can feel them getting better usually every day or every few days, but this one is tough.
“It’s feeling to the point that it’s pretty good.”
Good enough, in fact, that Fisher could return to the lineup as soon as Tuesday, when the Nashville Predators host the San Jose Sharks (7 p.m., Bridgestone Arena). The same is true of defenseman Francis Bouillon, who has been out even longer — since mid-January, to be exact — with a concussion.
Both players practiced at full speed Monday and awaited only final clearance from doctors in order to make their respective 2011-12 debuts.
The combined presence of those two, who have more than 1,300 career NHL games between them, would be a welcome addition to a team that has been outshot in each of its seven games and twice already has blown third-period leads at home.
Martin Erat also practiced Monday but remains sidelined with an injury he sustained in the season opener at Columbus.
Bouillon, Fisher and Erat account for half of the players 30 or older on the Nashville roster.
“We’re missing some pretty good players that can make plays under heat, under pressure,” coach Barry Trotz said. “…Some of that poise and some of that trust — probably — isn’t quite there. But that will come.”
For Fisher, seven missed games already are more than he’s had in any of the last four seasons. He appeared in at least 78 contests each of his last three full campaigns with Ottawa and last season played a total of 82 — a full season’s worth — for the Senators and Predators.
He had the surgery in mid-May and posted on Twitter a couple days before that time that he expected it to be difficult.
“Shoulder surgery set for Monday! Pray that all goes well! Summer of rehab won't be much fun but worth it!” he wrote on the social media website at that time.
The summer gave way to fall early in training camp and now Halloween is a week away.
Fisher was scheduled to consult with the doctor late Monday afternoon.
“I’m definitely close,” he said. “I’m hoping for [Tuesday] but if not, it will be this week sometime.”
Trotz said he would know for certain Tuesday morning whether or not Fisher and/or Bouillon would play Tuesday or later in the week.
For Fisher, his return can’t come soon enough.
“Ultimately it would have been perfect to be back Game One or even training camp,” he said. “It just took longer than I thought. The good thing is I’ve been skating for a couple months so my legs feel pretty good.
“Obviously, it will take a bit of time to get in there as far as timing and stuff, but I’ve managed to come back and fit in pretty quickly from different injuries. I’m excited to get back in there for sure.”
• The timing of Fisher’s pending return became more important Monday when Cal O’Reilly was hurt during practice. The 25-year-old center watched the last part of the workout from the bench and left the ice immediately upon completion.
“He pulled his groin a little bit in training camp and we pulled him back a little bit,” Trotz said. “Then he hurt it a couple games ago. He was feeling good and he sort of tweaked it again [Monday]. So it’s been a little bit of an ongoing problem.”
O’Reilly has played in five of the first seven games. He has one assist and a minus-2 rating.
• At 3-3-1 (seven points), the Predators actually are off to one of their better starts in recent seasons — in terms of their record, at least.
“Quite frankly we haven’t played as well as we can and our record is actually flattering considering the way we have played,” Trotz said. “…We’re not as bad as we’ve played and we’re not as good as we think we are.”
A year ago, Nashville started 4-0-3 (11 points). In the previous three seasons, though, it had no more than six points through the first seven games.
“We can’t continue to play this way or our record is not going to be very good,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “We all know we have to improve. We all want to improve.”