Mike Smith set for "gigantic test" in net for Tampa Bay Lightning Thursday against the Bruins
Nothing is in stone because as Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher said, "plans change," but for now the plan is to have Mike Smith start in net Thursday at Boston. The game is a bit more than just Smith making his first start for the Lightning since Dec. 18. It is more than Smith coming back after a knee injury and three weeks with AHL Norfolk.
The game is the first in Boston for Smith since he fell flat in an 8-1 loss on Dec. 2 in which he allowed five goals on 22 shots, including one from 76 feet away. Smith anticipated a puck going around the boards, left the net and watched as Boston's Dennis Seidenberg shot straight in.
"Every goalie has had bad games against a team," Smith said. "You can't go into a game thinking about the last time you played them. I've played good hockey since December, so you can't dwell on the past. I'm just looking forward to tomorrow and picking up where I left off here."
That was with back-to-back wins Dec. 16 and 18 against Atlanta and Buffalo in which he stopped 49 of 51 shots. Since then, Smith missed a month with a knee injury and then was sent to the minors as the team, in the short term, decided to go with Dan Ellis as backup to Dwayne Roloson. But after a 1-4-0 stint with Norfolk in which Smith played well with a 1.83 goals-against average and .924 save percentage, he is eager to prove he belongs in the NHL.
But against Boston? The night after a huge game with the Devils?
"It's a gigantic test but he has to do it," Boucher said. "That's what a backup does. He has to take some tough games. But having Smith in there doesn't prevent us from playing well and doing all the things we need to do. I think he's going to be the only guy, really, with energy after we, hopefully, leave everything on the ice tonight."
"Obviously, it will be exciting to be back in there," Smith said. "I'm confident. I've played well. I'm just going to go out there and play my game."
Other stuff from the morning: Defenseman Mike Lundin, who tonight will miss his 10th game with what is believed an abdominal injury, skated for the second straight day, though Boucher said it will be Wednesday against the Blackhawks, at the earliest, for Lundin to get into a game. ... Defenseman Mattias Ohlund, out two games with a lower-body injury, is a game-time decision. And Boucher hinted a second defenseman is the same, though he declined to name the player. ... Defenseman Brett Clark, whose name came up in trade rumors to the Blackhawks, said he never was asked to waive his no-trade clause. ... Defenseman Randy Jones said he was relieved trade rumors of him going to the Hurricanes did not come true. "It's in your mind, of course. You're a human being," he said. "If someone says it's not, they're full of (you know what). We've got a great group of guys, a great team. We have a team that has really jelled together and is really close and is there for each other. Chemistry like that is tough to come by. I'm just glad I'm part of it right now and for the rest of the season." ... Wing Sean Bergenheim and center Dominic Moore, both tennis buffs, took in an event Monday at Madison Square Garden in New York that featured exhibitions between John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl, and Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Bergenheim said he was amazed McEnroe "could put the ball anywhere on the court," but said Sampras was most impressive. "The touch he had on the ball. It was like he never took a day off since he retired," Bergenheim said. "I was very impressed." ... Said Boucher: "I know some guys were scared that we were going to move somebody from our team (at the trade deadline). That's just proof of how close that group is and how much they feel we have a team that can accomplish something." ... Left wing Marty St. Louis is the only NHL player with 75 points and 50 blocked shots.