Get ready to see a lot of Mike Smith
Sure, Mike Smith is the No. 1 goaltender and he has played the bulk of the games. But coach Rick Tocchet said Friday Smith likely will get even more of the work in the next few weeks, and that may even mean playing all four games on the road trip that starts Monday, including a back-to-back against the Sabres and Canadiens.
Smith, of course, will start Saturday against Buffalo at the St. Pete Times Forum.
"I know Mike Smith," Tocchet said after practice at the Ice Sports Forum. we have to let Smitty carry the load for a little bit and get him a bunch of games in a row here."
Asked if that meant Smith will start each game of the road trip, Tocchet said, "Right now, I'm going game by game other than the fact he has to play some games and get a good work load coming up."
Smith has maintained a pretty good level of play this season. Tocchet called him an All-Star, and even though he missed a game to have an irritated abdominal nerve treated, Smith entered Friday sixth in the league with a .928 save percentage. That is especially noteworthy because Smith has faced 642 shots, most of any in the top 10.
Olie Kolzig has only played seven games this season and his frequency may be reduced even further.
"Olie is just a consummate pro and he knows his role," Tocchet said. "It's a switch for him. He's been a star at Washington all those years. I know he was talking to (goaltenders coach Cap Raeder) the other day that he has to have a backup mentality, but knowing he has to be ready. One of those games on the road he might have to play."
Other stuff from practice: Tocchet said Radim Vrbata will play against the Sabres, likely on a line with Vinny Prospal at center and Mark Recchi. ... Captain Vinny Lecavalier and left wing Ryan Malone did not practice for "body maintenance." ... Practice was actually interesting. With the Lightning struggling to score goals (it is tied with the Senators with a league-low 56), the workout was skating and shooting. There were no puck-battle drills or squad vs. squad. And now a candidate for quote of the year from Tocchet: "We're trying to get as many shooting drills as possible where, you know, when you're struggling you don't want to have drills where they are confrontational. That's why you drill three-on-oh. You want to make sure the guy gets a shot." Told how funny that sounded, Tocchet said, "I'm not trying to be funny. When you are struggling, you want guys to feel good about themselves." ... Wing Evgeny Artyukhin said he received five stitches over his right eye from the hit from behind from Philly's Scottie Upshall, who put Arty's head into the glass. ... Left wing Matt Pettinger (knee) skated. ... Center Chris Gratton (knee), left wing Gary Roberts (groin) and left wing David Koci (hand) did not.