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G Mike Smith sent back to Tampa, but could return to practice as early as Wednesday



Lightning G Mike Smith (neck strain) has been sent back to Tampa, but has not suffered any setbacks and could return to practice as early as Wednesday, team athletic trainer Tommy Mulligan said.

Smith joined the team on its three-game road trip Friday, but once it was decided he wouldn't be ready to play in those games, he flew back to Tampa, where he's able to get more specialized chiropractic care. Mulligan said they still don't believe the injury is concussion-related, that his symptoms continue to be in the neck area, and that it's not believed to be a "long-term" deal.  

The Lightning have been saying Smith is "day-to-day" and has improved, but he hasn't skated with the team since suffering the injury Tuesday against the Capitals. Mulligan said Smith could skate in Tampa Monday, and if he continues to get better, may be able to practice with the team Wednesday when it returns from the trip.

"We just don't want this to continue to linger," Mulligan said. "So if we can take care of it now, even if takes an extra day or two, we can get it done right."

*In other injury news, D Matt Smaby (concussion) said he's ready to play, and coach Rick Tocchet said there's a chance he could be in the lineup Monday against Carolina. RW Todd Fedoruk (lower body injury) said he's also 100-percent, and is just waiting for coaches to tell him he can play.

*Tocchet praised rookie G Dustin Tokarski, who made five saves in the third period Saturday night (his NHL debut). But G Antero Niittymaki will start in net Monday against Carolina. "Nitty deserves to play again," Tocchet said. "He had a tough night, so let's see how he responds."

*Tocchet continued to be impressed with the play of Steve Downie, which is why the winger is playing on a line with Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos..“Steve Downie deserves to play more," Tocchet said. "He’s been one of our better players the last two, three weeks. He’s playing with an attitude that I want. He deserves to play and I want to get him up there.”


[Last modified: Tuesday, February 16, 2010 12:15am]


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