Smith: No timetable for my return
Finally tracked down Mike Smith today. And while the team's No. 1 goalie, who has missed three games with an upper-body injury, was adamant he would not reveal what part of his body is hurt other than to say nothing was broken, he made it sound as if he would not be back in the lineup in the short term.
Smith said in the week since he played his last game, Jan. 30 against the Flyers, the injury has not gotten much better. He has had an MRI exam and is waiting on other test results that might be available today. Had he been out only a couple of days as he planned, Smith said, he could have jumped right back into a game upon his return. At this point, he said, it will take at least two practices to be ready to play. When he will get back on the ice? He could not say.
"No, Tommy said, 'It's just how you feel,' and 'when you're ready to go, you're ready to go,' " Smith said of trainer Tommy Mulligan. "It's lingered longer than I had planned and hoped, so it's going to take a couple of days of practice and then see how I feel."
This could not have happened at a worse time for the Lightning. It is one-game into a six-game home stand it probably has to sweep to stay even remotely in the playoff picture, and now it has to do it with two rookie goaltenders -- Mike McKenna and Karri Ramo -- and a defense that is beat beat up (see previous post).
Smith hit some other topics as well.
He said the original injury probably occurred about six weeks ago and was aggravated a "few games" before the Flyers game. He said the tantrum he threw (smashing water bottles and breaking sticks after he was pulled in the third period) did not aggravate the injury.
Smith said he made the call to shut himself down because he decided he was hurting the team rather than helping it, playing while hurt. In his last six games, Smith was 3-3 with a 3.59 goals-against average and an .880 save percentage.
Of his silence to reporters, he said, "You guys want to know what's going on, and it puts you in a tough situation. But at the same time, we're trying to look out for my health, and in the new NHL, the way the things are going, no injury wants to be disclosed. Some of the write-ups have been pretty comical, but I think some of the guys were getting more of a kick out of it than I was. I just want to be back in there playing."
Smith said he understood the reasoning for not disclosing injuries. True, it is not as if he were skating as a forward or defenseman and could be slashed or targeted if an injury was known. Instead, he said, if teams knew of his injury, they could exploit it. For example, he said, if, say, his left leg were hurt, the opposition could start shooting to that side of his body because it might be weaker.
The bottom line, though, is this, Smith said, "I hate to miss one game let alone three or four. It's been over a week now and it hasn't gotten a whole lot better. It's been really frustrating. It's been hard to watch, especially this time of the season. It's crunch time. It's do or die. I want to be the guy helping the team out. But (McKenna has) been holding the fort, and hopefully he can keep it going."