Tampa Bay Lightning G Mike Smith expected to be with AHL Norfolk through Tuesday
Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said the plan is for goaltender Mike Smith to be with AHL Norfolk though Tuesday, meaning Smith could play as many as three games. Smith on Thursday was assigned to Norfolk on a conditioning assignment. Those assignments are for up to two weeks, though can be extended with the permission of the player.
That conversation likely won't happen as Yzerman made it clear he would bring Smith, out since Dec. 20 with a sprained left knee, back for the All-Star break. Yzerman also said there is no reason to read anything more into this than just a player trying to get back in game shape. He said Tampa Bay's three-goalie situation was not a factor.
"It seems like the logical thing to do," Yzerman said. "It's best for him. It's best for us. He hasn't played in a month. It's an opportunity for him to get a couple of games in before he gets in net for us again. When he plays in the NHL he wants to be at his best. It's an opportunity for him to get some extra work in."
Smith, who skated in Atlanta before boarding a plane for Binghamton, N.Y., agreed.
"In the end, it's going to be the best-case scenario," Smith said. "Obviously, I'd like to be up here and help this team win, but after being off a month, it's fair to say it would be best for me to go down there and get a couple of games in. Steve's a pretty loyal guy. If something else was up he would have indicated that to me. It's in my control. I could have said no. But it's going to be beneficial for me and this team up here if I can come back and play like I was when I was injured. I think I can help this team win up here, and I made that clear to Steve this is where I want to be. I feel I still can be a big part of this team. This is just a stepping stone to doing that."
Smith, who on Wednesday was cleared to play and is off injured reserve, could have refused the assignment but said he had no hesitation about going to the minors.
"Obviously, I don't want to go down there for that long, but I think it definitely is a positive thing, beneficial for me," he said. "It's a way to get a couple of games in before the (All-Star) break and test it out and start feeling good about my game again, and when I come back after the break, be ready to go again."
As for the Lightning's game tonight with the Thrashers, Dwayne Roloson will get the start in net. Looks like forward Mattias Ritola and defenseman Matt Smaby will be scratched.