Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher said goaltender Mike Smith will make his first start Wednesday against the Thrashers since the Dec. 2 debacle in Boston in which he allowed five goals on 22 shots in an 8-1 loss. The worst goal was the one allowed to Dennis Seidenberg, when Smith left the crease anticipating a wraparound from Seidenberg. Instead, Seidenberg shot into an empty net from 76 feet away.
Dan Ellis has handled the goaltending since then, going 2-1-1, but not without incident, such as the bad goal he allowed in Vancouver to tie the score 4-4 late in the third period. Steven Stamkos bailed Ellis out with an overtime goal for a 5-4 victory. Smith, meanwhile, has been working with goaltenders coach Frantz Jean on mechanics and getting his head back in the right place.
Boucher said he believes Smith has gotten there. He said he even got a glare from Smith when Ellis got the start in Vancouver, which was Ellis' fourth straight. It's a nice image, but we won't know anything, obviously, until Smith gets on the ice.
With a 3.57 goals-against average and .872 save percentage, to say Smith needs a good game is an understatement, not only from a team standpoint but from a personal confidence standpoint. While the Lighting is 16-10-4 and there is no reason to panic, it's getting toward that time when teams start solidifying positions with an eye on the playoffs.
Smith certainly needs to show he is up to the task.