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Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Smith to quiet down

BOSTON — Mike Smith had lots to say the past month or so; in the locker room, video sessions and on the ice, sometimes loudly.

The Lightning goaltender has become a leader in that way. But Smith said perhaps it's time to tone it down.

"I talked to my dad about it after the last game. Maybe just coming to the rink and worrying about what I'm supposed to do and hopefully that everyone looks after themselves," he said.

"You can talk all you want in here, but if you don't take it out on the ice, there's no point saying anything."

Smith could have plenty to say about Tampa Bay's direction. Coach Rick Tocchet has said Smith will carry even more of the load, and that likely means starting each of four games in a six-day stretch that begins tonight against the Bruins.

It is an easy equation for a team with a league-worst 20 points. Playing Smith, 26, already in 20 of 26 games, gives Tampa Bay the best chance to win. A terrific puck-handler and adept at seeing shots through traffic, the 6-foot-4, 218-pounder entered Sunday ninth in the league with a .925 save percentage on 669 shots, most in the top 10.

"He's a huge part of our team," defenseman Lukas Krajicek said. "He's been doing his job, keeping us in games. He deserves wins, not losses."

But Tampa Bay has lost seven straight (0-5-2), is on a 2-9-5 streak, and its 59 goals are tied with Ottawa for the league low.

Short-term indicators are just as harsh. The Bruins, tops in the East, are on a 16-2-1 streak in which they have outscored opponents 69-33, have won nine straight at home and killed 52 of their past 56 power plays.

Smith embraces the pressure.

"That's what we live for," he said. "Being a goalie, that's why we play. If we couldn't deal with pressure, we wouldn't be playing at the level we are."

It is a message Smith has delivered to teammates in private and through the media.

"He's a vocal guy, and the players respect him," said associate coach Mike Sullivan, who ran practice while Tocchet took care of personal business. "He's vocal in the locker room and team meetings. He certainly is one of the leaders on our team."

Asked the message for tonight, Smith said, "For everyone to look around the room and play for each other. In some games, it feels like it's not a team out there. It's two or three guys who all the time are playing hard. And then we'll have the odd guy who plays a great game and then disappears.

"It's not a factor of people not trying. It's those plays that mean so much in games. It's getting to the wall, blocking a shot, making a save at the right time. All those things add up to whether you win or lose."

About 45 minutes after Saturday's 4-3 loss to the Sabres, Smith still was at his locker, sweaty underwear and all.

"The past couple of games I could have made some saves that mattered. That's why I sat so long," Smith said. "It's just frustrating. I don't like to get down. I tried to come to the rink (Sunday) with a good attitude and try to move on and stay positive; as hard as it is to say, stay positive."

That said it all.

NOTES: D Matt Smaby was re-assigned to AHL Norfolk. … LW Ryan Malone (upper body) is day to day. … C Jussi Jokinen did not skate for "body maintenance."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Smith to quiet down 12/07/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 9, 2008 2:59pm]
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