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Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith slowly recovering from postconcussion syndrome

TAMPA — G Mike Smith said he "absolutely" wants to play again this season, and GM Brian Lawton backed him up Thursday, saying if Smith is recovered from postconcussion syndrome, he will play.

"The mandate is, if you're ready to go, then you're going," Lawton said. "If it's the last game of the year, it's the last game of the year. If he's not 100 percent, we're not going to force him to get into a game, but if he is, we're not going to hold him out, either.

"If the doctors tell me there's no chance there's any more risk, he'll be playing."

Smith, 26, who last played Jan. 30, said he is riding a stationary bike and doing 20 minutes of light gym workouts. He said he no longer has headaches, dizziness or nausea, but he cannot shake "being in a daze, a fogginess feel."

Smith said he failed to get relief from last month's visit to Vancouver chiropractor Don Grant, who Smith said relieved some of the neck stiffness from his 2006-07 concussion. Smith recently visited University of Pittsburgh concussion specialist Michael Collins, who treated then-Lightning F Rob DiMaio for the September 2006 concussion that ended his career.

Collins' advice was to stay active without aggravating the symptoms, Smith said.

"It's a lot slower than I expected," he said of his recovery. "It's not drastic improvement; (it's) a little bit every day, here and there."

Smith said he has "no doubt at all" he will be ready for training camp. Asked why it is so important to play again this season, he reminded it is his first as a No. 1. "Any game I play and gain some experience is good for my career," he said.

GOOD HANDS: Smith said he is pleased with how the Lightning has handled his situation: "I think they have done everything they could to try to find answers."

Smith also kicked himself for not telling the team for six weeks about his symptoms after teammate Vinny Prospal inadvertently ran him over in a Dec. 2 game at Philadelphia: "Playing that whole time with it definitely slowed the process."

STRENGTH TRAINING: RW Steve Downie, serving a 20-game AHL suspension for an alleged intentional slash of a linesman, is working with strength coach Chuck Lobe.

Coach Rick Tocchet said Downie needs the two-a-day program "to get him started toward next year."

"He's one of those players who comes up with pucks when the pucks are in tight," Tocchet said. "We need those types of players. Saying that, he has to be in shape; he has to be in hockey shape."

Downie is eligible to play in Norfolk's final game, on April 11, but said that has yet to be determined. Meanwhile, he is learning "what it takes to train as a pro and be a pro," Tocchet said.

"I'm still young and still learning about parts of working out," said Downie, who said his foot speed also needs improvement. "It's going to be fun and a good experience."

ODDS AND ENDS: D Matt Lashoff had two assists for his first Lightning points. … RW Marty St. Louis has a team season-high seven-game points streak (5-5-10). … D Josef Melichar was recalled from Norfolk because of D Cory Murphy's broken foot. … LW David Koci and D Marek Malik (foot) also were scratched.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Mike Smith slowly recovering from postconcussion syndrome 03/19/09 [Last modified: Friday, March 20, 2009 6:49am]
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