Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Mike Smith said he could have played Saturday if necessary
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender Mike Smith characterized his injury as general soreness, and added that he could have played Saturday against the Hurricanes and "be fine." In fact, coach Rick Tocchet said he was going to play Antero Niittymaki against Carolina, anyway.
Don't you love it when a plan comes together like that?
"He's fine," Tocchet said of Smith. "I wanted to play Niitty. It wasn't because (Smith) is hurt. It's Niitty's turn."
That said, "I am pretty stiff today," Smith said. "A lot more today than yesterday, but nothing I couldn't have played with. It's part of the game, you get lumps and bumps throughout the season and you play with them. We have some treatment today on it and hopefully feel better tomorrow."
Smith said he thought he broke his back when hit Thursday against the Devils by New Jersey's Jamie Langenbrunner, who was rammed into the goalie by teammate Ryan Malone. While nothing is broken, the stiffness is significant, though not unexpected.
"I got hit by a small truck," Smith said. "It was like I was in a car accident. Usually the second or third day, it's worse, and then you start to turn the corner and get better. I'm not worried. I'll live through it. Thankfully, I wasn't injured more than I was."
Smith said he expects he will be ready for Monday's game with the Panthers.
"But Niitty deserves a shot," he said. "I'm sure we'll come out and play real well."
More stuff from the morning skate: Defenseman David Hale has the flu (though not the swine flu), the team said. With Kurtis Foster not quite ready to come back from a lower body injury, Lukas Krajicek gets his first game action of the season. "Everybody wants to play the game," Krajicek said. "So, finally I'm in and we'll see how long it stays." ... Tocchet said Foster is close to returning but needs some "practice and pushing and shoving before he gets out there." ... Niittymaki said of course he would rather play more but understands the backup role. He said of getting into the team's fourth game, "This is pretty fair." ... Tocchet on adding assistant coach Adam Oates: "He was a smart player. We needed to add to the hockey IQ of the coaching staff. The average was a little bit low." ... Tocchet on giving the players Friday off after Thursday's last second debacle against the Devils: "I just felt pounding away at the guys again, they just needed to get away from the rink for a while. That was a tough loss. The last thing you want to do is come in at 11:30 (the next day) and start preaching again. We needed to get their energy level up." ... Neither Vinny Lecavalier nor Alex Tanguay has a goal, but Tocchet said he is not concerned because they both are getting their chances. "I'd be worried if they weren't getting them. They just have to keep playing the right way. They can't cheat. That's the biggest thing with the best players. If they start cheating then we're in trouble as a team. That's the one thing we've stressed to those guys."