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Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith says sharing time helps team

TAMPA — G Mike Smith is healthy enough to play but said he had no problem with backup G Antero Niittymaki starting Monday for the second straight game.

"He deserves to be in there; he got us our first win this year," Smith said. "He played really well and made some big stops at key times. If this team is going to win this year, it's going to be because of great goaltending, not just from myself but from Nitty, too. So it's important to have two guys that can get in there and play well. If one guy is hurt or one guy is not playing well as well as they can, the team is confident in either guy, so that's important."

Smith admitted he was still a bit sore from getting run over Thursday in a collision with the Devils' Jamie Langenbrunner but is surprised with how quickly he has recovered.

"Must be all that summer work I did," Smith joked. "I didn't really practice getting hit by a truck, but … "

Smith, who missed two months last season after a concussion, said he watched the replay of the collision, even slowing it down a bit, "It felt like it looked. I thought I broke every bone in my back. I felt like everything popped and cracked, so I wasn't even thinking about my head; I just thought I busted my back up. … I've never been hit that hard, ever."

Coach Rick Tocchet said Niittymaki played well enough to earn another start, but it sounds as if Smith will be back in net soon; there's no controversy.

"This is the Tampa Bay Lightning, not the Smitty Lightning or the Vinny Lightning," Tocchet said. "Nitty deserves to play, so he's playing. I mean, Smitty is going to play a ton for us."

Getting back: The Vinny Lecavalier-Alex Tanguay combination on the top line produced no goals in the first four games, but Tocchet said they're not in panic mode.

Tanguay has said he and Lecavalier have been frustrated by it, but the fact that they've had a lot of scoring chances and shots has been "encouraging."

"Vinny … is getting a ton of chances," Tocchet said. "I think (Tanguay) early in the season had a couple of chances in the slot and shot it wide or over the net; he could easily have three, four goals and we wouldn't even be talking about this. On good teams, some lines will carry the team through certain stretches. As long as they're playing our team system, they're fine."

Tocchet said Lecavalier and Tanguay have been "doing the right things when they're not scoring," citing the captain's ability to contain Hurricanes star Eric Staal, for the most part, over two games.

Down low: Tocchet has praised RW Steve Downie for his play as of late, from his energy to holding onto the puck — and keeping his cool. Downie and his fourth line have been drawing more penalties (instead of taking them), and Tocchet said he has seen Downie mature a lot in that fact. Tocchet said he warned Downie that with his reputation, he's probably going to get a short leash with referees, and "he's gotta be a solid citizen."

"He's done a nice job," Tocchet said.

Nuts and bolts: Tocchet said the third line, with Jeff Halpern, James Wright and Drew Miller, "has probably been the most consistent line. … They do stuff on the scoresheet that nobody notices." … Though D Kurtis Foster (lower body injury) and D David Hale (flu) appeared healthy enough to play, Tocchet said D Lukas Krajicek got the start partly because he played well Saturday.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith says sharing time helps team 10/12/09 [Last modified: Monday, October 12, 2009 8:47pm]
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