Smith not seeking redemption vs. Lightning tonight
Former Lightning goalie Mike Smith got to catch up with some former teammates Sunday night, the eve of his return to Tampa Bay for the first time since signing with the Coyotes after the 2011 season.
And in a gathering that included RW Ryan Malone, C Steven Stamkos, RW Teddy Purcell and RW B.J. Crombeen, Smith said there was no question who paid the tab.
“Obviously Stammer,” he said, smiling.
Smith, 31, said he isn’t seeking payback Monday night against the Lightning, whom he played for 3 1/2 seasons that included a humbling demotion to the minors his final year. He had a lot of great memories and life-long friends in Tampa, but says he’s a much different goalie now. Smith, given the chance to be the No. 1 goalie Phoenix and signed to a six-year, $34 million deal, has thrived, even winning an Olympic gold medal for Team Canada in the Sochi Olympics.
“I never lost belief, even when I was here,” Smith said. “I thought I could be a good goalie in this league, but tough things happen and there’s a adversity that I had to go through but I always said I never take back any of that stuff that’s ever happened to me. I believe I’ve become a better person, better goalie for it. I feel very fortunate that Phoenix took a chance on me and it’s worked out so far.”
Smith, acquired by the Lightning from the Stars midway through the 2007-2008 season in the Brad Richards trade, admitted though he wasn’t sure if he’d be back in the NHL again after getting clearing waivers in February 2011 and getting sent down to Norfolk in the American Hockey League. "That’s a punch in the stomach,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper, Smith’s coach then in Norfolk. “When you ride the bus for a little while, it puts things in probably more perspective.
Cooper, Smith's coach at Norfolk, believed it turned into a confidence builder, as Smith rebounded nicely in a call-up to to perform well in the playoffs in 2011, and has kept it going in Phoenix.
Quipped Cooper: "He's definitely shown no signs that he's going to go back to the minors, that's for sure."
More stuff from Monday's morning skate: C Steven Stamkos did not participate in the morning skate, but there was no cause for concern; it's part of the plan for him to take a day here and there to manage his surgically-repaired broken right tibia.... D Radko Gudas (lower body injury) skated in a regular jersey, but won't return to the lineup tonight, hoping to be back Thursday... Cooper said there will be the same lineup tonight.... RW Ryan Malone admitted he's not happy to be a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game, but will be ready for when his opportunity comes..