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G Mike Smith excited to start against former team



Lightning goaltender Mike Smith said he didn't have tonight's game in Dallas circled before the season started, but that didn't mean he isn't excited to start in goal against his former team.

Smith, acquired from the Stars in the Brad Richards trade in February 2008, said it was a "little weird" returning to Dallas for the first time since the trade. But he had a lot of great memories from his experience in Dallas, from friends and teammates.

"I had a good couple years here in Dallas, met a lot of good people," Smith said. "I can't say enough about the organization. But it’s a big game for our team and hopefully we can keep the ball rolling."


Smith, who backed up Marty Turco in Dallas, said the veteran goalie played a big role in his development, and they still keep in touch "quite a bit."

"He was a big part of my life growing up in the minors," Smith said. "He's a big mentor of mine, in my career, and I still talk to  him a little when I'm going through some tough times, and when things are going good, we keep in touch. He helps me through little things that maybe I haven't gone through before but that I know he definitely has. It's been a nice relationship to have."

There was no sentimentality involved in the decision to start Smith, however, as coach Rick Tocchet has praised him for his work ethic the past three weeks, his maturity - and his play. Tocchet pointed out how Smith seems "quieter" in net, which means he's not been moving around too much, and instead squaring shots up, which has led to his success.

*In other pre-game tidbits, the Lightning didn't skate this morning (coming off the flight last night from Tampa after the Rangers game). Tocchet liked the way his team stood up for each other, and passed the test in terms of physicality when the Rangers started things.

Tocchet specifically pointed to captain Vinny Lecavalier, whom he felt showed some leadership early in Friday's game against the Rangers. Rangers defenseman Michael del Zotto delivered a big hit on Lecavalier against the boards, and Lecavalier went after him with a hit of his own, before throwing punches with Sean Avery.

"Vinny set the tone for our team last night with Del Zotto, two big hits, he got hit and didn't like that. And I think that really  turned the game around for us. That's leadership, Vinny Lecavalier, what he did is leadership to our team."


[Last modified: Monday, December 28, 2009 10:15am]


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