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Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith on road trip, not likely to play

SUNRISE — Though G Mike Smith (neck strain) is improving, Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said he probably won't play on this road trip, which ends Tuesday in New York.

Smith, hurt in Tuesday's win over the Capitals, is traveling with the team, but he didn't skate again Saturday before the Lightning's game against the Panthers. He is still labeled day-to-day. Tocchet said he'd like to get Smith a few days of practice before putting him back in.

"I wouldn't say for sure, but I don't think so," Tocchet said of Smith playing on the trip. "I mean, he hasn't been on the ice yet. So we at least got to get a bunch of practices for him."

G Antero Niittymaki started for the second straight game, giving up five goals on 18 shots in two periods. Dustin Tokarski, called up last week from AHL Norfolk, played the third period for his NHL debut and saved all five shots he faced.

Deja vu: Rookie D Victor Hedman was hoping to bounce back after making a couple of costly miscues in Thursday's loss to the Panthers, a night he hoped would be a "once-in-a-lifetime"-type thing.

But another Hedman mistake led to Florida's second goal Saturday. The Lightning's 2009 top draft pick failed to corral the puck, which took an odd bounce off the boards in a first-period dump-in by the Panthers. The puck went right to Cory Stillman, who scored to make it 2-0.

Florida coach Peter DeBoer said before the game that those errors are typical of young players and he is impressed by Hedman.

"Oh, wow, you just watch him on tape, he's the real deal," DeBoer said. "He really reminds me a lot of (ex-Florida D) Jay Bouwmeester, the way he skates and moves the puck, his composure and his calmness. Those mistakes are going to happen, to all young defensemen; they're going to happen to veteran defensemen. But this kid is the real deal."

Nice niche: Tocchet said he likes the way RW Brandon Bochenski has played on the power play from his position in the middle and is going to keep him there for the next couple of games.

"He really knows how to play that middle diamond, and that's something we really want to find," Tocchet said. "Because when you have that middle diamond guy that knows how to play it, Kurtis Foster and Steven Stamkos are going to get a lot of chances. (Opponents have) to respect that, and Bochenski can shoot the puck, so we'll give him a shot for a while."

First-timer: Tokarski is enjoying the perks on his first NHL road trip. "The planes are a nice touch," he said, smiling.

Tokarski said he has traded congratulatory text messages with good buddy and former WHL Spokane teammate Drayson Bowman, who got called up by Carolina on Friday. The teams play in Raleigh on Monday.

"One of my buddies who is still in Spokane told me that it was on the front page of the papers," Tokarski said. "That's pretty cool."

Odds and ends: RW Todd Fedoruk (lower-body injury) and D David Hale were scratched. Tocchet said Fedoruk needs another couple of hard skates before he can play. … LW Alex Tanguay racked up the 200th goal of his career, and C Vinny Lecavalier tallied his 400th career assist.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith on road trip, not likely to play 01/16/10 [Last modified: Saturday, January 16, 2010 10:34pm]

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