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Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith has 'nagging' lower-body injury, won't play against Devils

Goalie Mike Smith’s lower-body injury isn’t serious, coach Rick Tocchet says, and he will be held out of today’s game with the Devils as a precaution. Olie Kolzig will start.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Goalie Mike Smith’s lower-body injury isn’t serious, coach Rick Tocchet says, and he will be held out of today’s game with the Devils as a precaution. Olie Kolzig will start.

BRANDON — Lightning coach Rick Tocchet insisted that G Mike Smith, who entered Saturday fourth in the league with a .932 save percentage, is not seriously hurt. He called it a "nagging" thing that has bothered Smith for several games.

Even so, the lower-body injury will keep Tampa Bay's No. 1 out of today's game with the Devils, Tocchet said.

Olie Kolzig will start. Karri Ramo is expected up from AHL Norfolk to be the backup.

Holding Smith out is a precaution, Tocchet said. With no practice Monday, it gives him a chance to heal quickly.

"If he had to play, he could play," Tocchet said.

"He'll get 48 hours of therapy and rest, and it should help him nip this thing."

The injury, unnoticed as Smith made 34 saves in Friday's 4-1 victory over the Predators, is the highest profile in a series of nicks that will force several personnel moves.

D Lukas Krajicek, who missed Friday's third period with a lower-body injury, did not practice Saturday at the Ice Sports Forum and is not expected to play today. That will force a defenseman to be called up from Norfolk, likely Andrew Hutchinson or Jamie Heward, Tocchet said, both of whom have much-needed right-hand shots.

Tampa Bay, at the 23-player roster limit, put C Chris Gratton (knee) and LW Gary Roberts (lower body) on injured reserve to accommodate the newcomers, retroactive to Wednesday. They will be unavailable for seven days.

"The guys that are injured, they're not major stuff," Tocchet said. "It's like a one- or maybe two-game kind of thing."

GOOD NEWS: Ryan Malone, held out of Friday's third period as a precaution, skated Saturday, and Tocchet said he is okay. The left wing had three assists in his first game after missing four with what was believed to be a leg injury.

SEARCHING FOR SULLY: Mike Sullivan would not confirm he is speaking to the Lightning about a job as an assistant — "You know how I operate. I'd rather not comment at all," he said — but he didn't deny it, either.

Sullivan, 40, who was part of former coach John Tortorella's staff, seems a logical fit.

He already is being paid for the final year of his contract, and from 1998-2000, he played with Tocchet for the Coyotes.

Sullivan also has the endorsement of at least one Tampa Bay defenseman.

"He was a good coach. He knew his stuff," Paul Ranger said. "The guys respect him. He's a smart man. You can learn from him."

Sullivan said he is spending time coaching his kids and "looking for an opportunity to get back in the game as soon as I can."

NET PRESENCE: Very soon, Tocchet said, he will begin charting players at the net.

"We're going to call it Net Presence," he said.

It is a way to persuade players to make a home in the high-traffic area where so many goals are scored. It is something at which the Lightning has been weak, though Tocchet said there has been improvement. Two of four goals scored against Nashville were from in-close.

"Are we where we want to be? Not even close," Tocchet said.

How will he keep score?

"It's all subjective," Tocchet said, but the basic parameters will be whether players are "directly in front or going to the net on a rebound."

NEW LOOK: The Lightning unveils its third jersey today against the Devils.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith has 'nagging' lower-body injury, won't play against Devils 11/22/08 [Last modified: Sunday, November 23, 2008 4:52pm]
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