Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Matt Smaby frustrated but patient while waiting for playing time

Defenseman Matt Smaby hasn’t played in the regular season. “Some guys (are) ahead of him,” coach Rick Tocchet says.

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Defenseman Matt Smaby hasn’t played in the regular season. “Some guys (are) ahead of him,” coach Rick Tocchet says.

MONTREAL — D Victor Hedman is out with a concussion, D Paul Ranger is away dealing with a personal matter, and still Matt Smaby can't get in a game.

The defenseman has yet to play this season; that's frustrating for him given how last season he bailed out the team with few blue-line options.

"It's tough," said Smaby, who played several months with a broken foot. "It's kind of a logjam on defense right now. I'm just waiting for an opportunity and taking advantage of it when it's there.

"I showed that I can play last year and make a difference in a game. It's frustrating because I know I can play."

Coach Rick Tocchet feels Smaby's pain, and the two spoke during Saturday's skate.

"Life's not fair right now for him," Tocchet said.

"Should he be in? Yeah, he should be playing some games. But there are some guys ahead of him. We were winning some games, and I didn't want to break up those six guys. But he does add something, and he said he would be ready to go, but I have to get him in the lineup."

With Hedman out Saturday against Montreal, there seemed to be a chance. But Tocchet went with Kurtis Foster, scratched in the three previous games and whom Tocchet said needs to be more physically assertive.

Smaby, 25, with a new two-year deal, said he would have to approve a second conditioning assignment at AHL Norfolk (he had a two-week stint last month) and added he is not at the point where he has asked to be traded.

"The nice part is it's still early," he said, "but at the end of the day, I want to play."

Frustrating drought: Marty St. Louis has zero goals and is minus-5 in his past 10 games. His eight assists take the edge off, but the right wing admits to being frustrated.

"Right now I'm just doing enough, and that's not good enough," he said before the game. "I have to bring more. I thought (Thursday's) Ottawa game was a good building point for me. I felt I attacked and went to the net with the puck. It's probably the best I've felt mentally on the ice the past five or six games, and I'm looking to carry that into (Saturday) night."

Tocchet said he is not worried about the team "fireplug."

"Marty is one of those guys, he does so much more," Tocchet said. "If he goes nine games, at least he plays good defense. He's set up some guys on big goals. He's a fireplug. He keeps going out there hard. It's the guys that, when they don't score, they shut down other parts of their game that you can't have. Marty doesn't really do that."

Trade winds: Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe attended his fourth straight Lightning game. Jim Hammett, Tampa Bay's director of player personnel, also was present. Edmonton is in the market for a defenseman, of which the Lightning has nine.

Odds and ends: Tocchet said he exchanged text messages with Ranger but offered no details about why the defenseman was granted an extended leave of absence, though he said he is sure Ranger wants to return to the team. … With his goal Saturday, W Alex Tanguay has scored against every NHL team. … An assist gave C Jeff Halpern his 300th point. … C Vinny Lecavalier has laryngitis. … LW Todd Fedoruk, who played just 12:40 combined in two previous games, was scratched. W Drew Miller, scratched against the Senators, was in the lineup.

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Matt Smaby frustrated but patient while waiting for playing time 11/07/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 7, 2009 11:48pm]

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