Lightning D Matt Smaby scratched for 9th straight game; he's a "great soldier," coach Boucher says
It's been a tough go of late for Matt Smaby. The Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman will be scratched in tonight's game with the Maple Leafs for the ninth straight game.
Asked if he is feeling frustrated, Smaby said, "I don't know if that was the exact word I'd pick. It is what it is. I think I have to try to make the best of what's happening and work hard and try to be better every day and be the best seventh D there is in the league and wait for another opportunity."
"It's tough," coach Guy Boucher acknowledged. "The reality is we haven't had a lot of defenseman injuries. But it's been tough for him. He's a great soldier. Every day he's practicing with everything he's got. He's hoping for a chance to show what he's got."
What is interesting is that Boucher usually likes to play with seven defenseman. But he hasn't done that in a while, and said, generally, it is because he is trying to find the best chemistry among his top six. He said the same experiment is ongoing with the forwards on the second and third lines. The Lightning blue line also has been a lot steadier lately. So chances for Smaby indeed have been limited.
But Smaby, who has zero points and 13 penalty minutes while averaging 7:15 of playing time in 20 games, has been quiet about his situation and committed to staying in shape. A lot better than some guys who might speak out and be a distraction.
"I really enjoy the team and the group of guys and the management," he said. "I've all the confidence in myself that when I do get in there I will make a good impression and go from there."
But as of now, "The other guys are ahead of him and when they're healthy we're going with them," Boucher said.
Other stuff from the morning: Dwayne Roloson gets the start in net. ... Wing Ryan Malone will sit out his second straight game with a "mid-body" injury sustained Friday against the Panthers. Malone declined to give any specifics about the injury other than to say it was something he had for a while, though on a low level and was aggravated during the game at Florida, or as he said it, "Just a kind of tweakage." He said he is confident he will be ready for Feb. 1 game against the Flyers. ... Forward Mattias Ritola gets his second straight start after Boucher said he played "very well" Sunday. And finally, I know this video is not great because I still am a klutz with the recorder and things were moving so fast, but this is what the players did today to "activate" for tonight's game, a little indoor hoops in the hallway under the stands at the St. Pete Times Forum.