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Injury of Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith remains a mystery

Goaltender Mike Smith is expected to be on the ice today or Monday, general manager Brian Lawton said, and the expectation is he will play Tuesday against the Thrashers.

What is the mysterious upper-body injury that has kept the team's most valuable player out of three games and off the ice since Jan. 30? We still don't know.

What's the big secret?

"There is no mystery," Lawton said Saturday.

What there is is an NHL directive that allows teams in many circumstances not to disclose injury information. Teams have the option of disclosing as much as they want, but Lawton clearly believes the cryptic upper-body, lower-body stuff is enough.

"The original thought behind it was never wanting anyone to have a competitive advantage in the form of knowing a specific injury," he said. "That's all it centers around. We're protecting our players."

The problem is, following the guideline puts people such as coach Rick Tocchet, trainer Tommy Mulligan and the injured players in a tough spot.

They don't want to lie. So you get what we got last week:

• Lawton on Wednesday saying he believed Smith would be ready for Saturday's game with the Islanders but then no explanation why Smith is still sidelined.

• Smith on Friday using a curtain to camouflage himself so he could sneak out of the Ice Sports Forum without talking to reporters.

• Tocchet on Saturday saying he was first told of Smith's injury six weeks ago but that the team has yet to "pinpoint" the injury.

Even Mulligan said the injury is "a little bit" of a mystery. Really? After six weeks?

It must be especially difficult on Tocchet, who has to meet with reporters every day and tap-dance as he did Saturday when asked if there were concerns the injury could linger.

"I don't know. I really don't," he said. "I wish I could give you an answer. I really don't know."

Even if there wasn't a mystery, that kind of stuff created one.

Look, this is probably all very innocent when you get down to the bottom line. Lawton said Smith also preferred the team not talk about his injury, and if that is the case, it is good the team respected his wishes.

But that doesn't make it any less of a mystery.

Injury of Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith remains a mystery 02/07/09 [Last modified: Saturday, February 7, 2009 9:08pm]
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