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Fischer #8

Great to see Jiri back on the ice. Jiri will play a key role in bring the cup back to Hockeytown!

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Fischer eager to return to games, practices, camaraderie

By Ted Kulfan / The Detroit News

TROY -- It's the things away from the ice that defenseman Jiri Fischer missed as much as playing while rehabilitating his left knee last season.

The plane trips and extended road trips. The camaraderie off the ice. Hanging around the locker room after a lively practice.

"Those little things, I'm not going to take for granted anymore," Fischer said Monday after nearly a full squad of Wings went through a conditioning workout.

They'll board the bus for Traverse City on Wednesday for the start of training camp Friday.

"It was difficult being away from the game like that," said Fischer, 22. "You miss that, you really do. And then, of course, not playing. I figured it out. This will be the longest time for me without hockey since I was 4.

"That, too, I'm not going to take for granted anymore," Fischer said. "I'm very excited about playing again and getting started."

When Fischer went down Nov. 12 against Nashville, suffering a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, it was a hit to the Wings lineup. He presented the size (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) and physical strength that the defensive unit lacked the rest of the season.

Fischer said he could have played if the Wings had a lengthy playoff run, but obviously that didn't happen.

After further rehab work over the summer, watching Fischer these days at the Troy Sports Center, there's no reason to doubt Fischer is 100 percent and ready to resume a promising young career.

"Absolutely fine," Fischer said of his present physical condition. "When I'm skating, I'm not even thinking about it. I feel very good on the ice. Things are coming back."

Said Wings General Manager Ken Holland: "Having Jiri back healthy is a huge addition. He's one of the top young defensemen in the game, and further bolsters our defense."

A defense that with Lidstrom and Hatcher, among others, might be the deepest in the NHL.

"You're going to have to play well to earn your ice time," Fischer said.

For the third time since turning professional, Fischer went back to his roots to begin this season. Fischer returned to Hull, Quebec, in mid-August, and stayed with the same family as when he played junior hockey.

This time, Fischer was also able to take part in a conditioning camp run by his former coaches, and was able to see some old friends and teammates.

"It was very nice, and got me in a great frame of mind," Fischer said. "I was able to concentrate on hockey, be on my own, but see all those people, too. It was very good."


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The Detroit Red Wings drafted Fischer with the 25th overall pick at the 1998 NHL Entry Draft. The following season he put up impressive offensive numbers in the QMJHL -- 22 goals and 56 assists in 65 games -- but his greatest asset is his defensive ability. The hard-hitting Fischer played 52 NHL games in 1999-00. By 2001-02, Fischer's plus-minus rating swelled to a plus-17. The backliner played 80 regular-season games that season, notching two goals and eight assists. In helping the Wings capture the 2002 Stanley Cup, Fischer was plus-6 in 22 playoff games.