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Tampa Bay Lightning G Mike Smith says he feels lucky after hearing pop in knee

23

December

Given the alternative, Mike Smith said, things could be a lot worse. The Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender said he heard a pop in his left knee when teammate Simon Gagne clipped him during Monday's morning skate. So given that the sprain of the medial collateral ligament is considered mild, needing two to three weeks of recovery, Smith said he considers himself "lucky in this situation."

Smith seems under a bit of a black cloud, doesn't he? The guy is playing lights out in the first half of the 2008-09 season and then gets run over by then-teammate Vinny Prospal, and a concussion costs him the rest of the season. He is getting things together last season and is run over by Washington's Brooks Laich and is out for a significant amount of time with a neck injury. Now, he plays two solid games as he tries to get out of a slump and his own teammate puts him on the sideline.

But give Smith credit for keeping some perspective. He even chuckled when asked if he felt he was cursed, in a way.

"No, I don't feel that way. Just bad luck, really," he said. "It's part of being a professional athlete. You know an injury can happen any time. Stuff happens."

The timing, though, as Smith said, "couldn't be much worse."

Consider that Smith, though 10-5-0, has a 3.20 goals-against average and an .883 save percentage, both of which are near the bottom of the league. But in the two games before he was hurt, Smith was 2-0-0 with a 0.96 goals-against average and .961 save percentage.

"The only thing worse would have been if I was playing not very good hockey, and then I get injured after some bad games," Smith said. "I'm happy it happened when I started to play well and I know I can get back in and pick up where I left off. But any time you get an injury, it's always frustrating."

In that sense, he is looking forward to the Christmas break.

"It will be nice to have these two games at Christmas to just not do anything and ice it down and get a little bit of treatment," Smith said.

Christmas break: There cannot be any team activities on Christmas eve and Christmas day, which means after Thursday's game with the Rangers, Lightning players will not have an organized skate until the morning skate in Atlanta before Sunday's game with the Thrashers.

Other stuff from the morning: Coach Guy Boucher pointed out how the Lightning this season has lost twice to the Islanders, twice to the Panthers, lost to the Flames and lost to the Oilers. That's a lot of losing to teams with a combined record of 48-68-14. "It's a lack of urgency, period," Boucher said. "Its not taking the other team seriously, even though you want to. You don't feel threatened. You know what you've got to do and what you want to do, but you don't feel threatened. Every game we've played up to now almost, we feel like our backs are up against a wall. That is the nature of the NHL. You feel every team can beat you, so you get in there and fight and fight and fight. But then you meet a team (the Islanders) that has won two in their last (23) and you lack that urgency. Human, yes, but I don't care. It's part of the maturity we need to have. If we're going to be a top-notch team, we can't have that." Given that four of the previously mentioned losses were in overtime or a shootout, it means Tampa Bay has left eight points on the table in those games. "These one points here and there that you're losing, ask those teams who are looking for that point the last week of the season," Boucher said. ... Dan Ellis gets his second straight start in net tonight against the Rangers. Ellis played pretty well against the Islanders, and while he probably should have had P.A. Parenteau's extreme-angle goal that tied the game 1-1 with 17 seconds left in the second period, coach Guy Boucher said the bang-bang nature of the play made Ellis' miss less bothersome. ... Expect Ellis, unless he just falls apart against New York, to face the Thrashers. backup Cedrick Desjardins will get his first NHL start at some point, but more likely in a game at the St. Pete Times Forum. ... Here's a nice little story. Defenseman Brett Clark will host his son Cail, 7, and some of his friends and also some friends of the family for a skate at the Times Forum on Christmas eve. "It's just a good time to get together with friends and family and kick off the Christmas holidays," Clark said. ... Boucher gave a terrific critique about why wing Ryan Malone has done so well lately with seven goals, 16 points and plus-1 in his past 14 games. "The thing he was doing before he was fighting bodies. He wasn't fighting to get the puck," the coach said. "I told him, 'You've got to have the puck. Stop trying to bang everybody and go to the net to fight with other bodies with sticks in the air. You're there to score goals. You're going to screen, but you're going to screen with your stick on the ice.' He worked really hard in practice. We looked at video. He never had his stick on the ice. He never was around the net to score. Now, he's going there to score. Plus, he's using his speed a lot more to be first on puck rather than to hit."

Finally: After tonight's game with the Rangers, I'll be off until Jan. 3. Joe Smith will be following the team, but the blog may slow down for a while. Have a happy holiday season, everyone, and thanks for your support.

[Last modified: Saturday, January 22, 2011 12:15am]

    

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