Goalie Smith wants to play, team backs him up
The Lightning and Mike Smith believe getting him back in a game this season is a good idea if Smith can 100 percent recover from post-concussion syndrome.
"The mandate is, if you're ready to go, then you're going," GM Brian Lawton said. "If it's the last game of the year, it's the last game of the year. If he's not 100 percent, we're not going to force him to get in a game, but if he is, we're not going to hold him out, either. If he's ready to play, he'll play."
How is Smith doing? He said he no longer has headaches or dizziness or nausea, is beginning to work out on a stationary bike and in the gym. But he said he cannot seem to shake a general "fogginess ... of being in a daze."
Smith last month visited chiropractor Don Grant in Vancouver. Smith said he used Grant after his 2006-07 concussion with the Stars to help loosen up his neck. He said he did not get the same relief this time from Grant. Two weeks ago he visited University of Pittsburgh concussion specialist Michael Collins, who also treated former Lightning forward Rob DiMaio.
Smith said he was told his symptoms will dissipate. It is just a matter of time.
"It's been a lot slower than I expected," Smith said. "I improve a little bit every day here and there."
As for playing again this season, Smith said, "Absolutely. Obviously, there are not a lot of games left, but I'd like to get back on the ice and get in as many games as I can. Any games I can play I can gain experience and that's good for my career."
Smith has not played since Jan. 30. He originally was hurt Dec. 2 against the Flyers when run over by teammate Vinny Prospal. Smith said he aggravated the injury when inadvertently decked by an official during a Jan. 21 game with the Sabres.
Whatever happens this season, Smith said he has no doubt he will be ready for training camp.
"No doubt at all," he said.
Other stuff from this morning: Defenseman Josef Melichar was re-called from AHL Norfolk and will play tonight in place of Cory Murphy, who could be out for the rest of the season with a broken right foot. ... Mike McKenna is expected to start in net. ... Wing Steve Downie, serving a 20-game AHL suspension for allegedly intentionally slashing a linesman, is in Tampa, starting a workout program much like the one Steven Stamkos used to get into shape. Coach Rick Tocchet likes Downie because "he's one of those guys who comes up with pucks when the pucks are in tight." But he said Downie has to get stronger. "he has to learn what it takes to train like a pro and be a pro," Tocchet said. "That's probably the next level he has to improve on." Said Downie: "I've got to be bigger, stronger for the type of game I play." ... What does Tocchet like about Stamkos, whose next milestone could be a 20-goal season?"He's learning what it takes at this level to be consistent. He's taken the ball and run with it. He hasn't missed a workout. Hes always on the ice working after practice and in the video room. He's doing everything possible to be a better player. That's what I like about him. You don't always have to remind him to do stuff." ... In three previous games against the Capitals, Tampa Bay has been outscored 16-7. "They've taken their licks a few years ago and stayed the course, and you can tell they're starting to reap the benefits," Tocchet said. "That doesn't mean I like it when we get pounded."