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Waiting possibly worsened Smith's injury

TAMPA — If, as G Mike Smith has said, he played for about six weeks with concussion symptoms before telling the club, he likely did not do himself any favors, a noted Canadian neurologist inferred.

"If you continue to exert yourself, to train maximally and to play hard while you're still symptomatic, then it tends to prolong how long the concussion symptoms last," said Charles Tator, a brain surgeon who teaches at the University of Toronto, has treated NHL players for concussions and is a sports safety crusader. Though he added, "We do recognize individual variation."

Tator spoke generally. He did not know the identity of the player when asked to comment on the scenario Smith explained this week. Tator also was told the player missed two weeks in 2006-07 because of a concussion.

Smith was with the Stars, then. The Dallas Morning News reported the concussion, sustained Jan. 4 on a shot off his mask against the Oilers, was mild.

"Everybody recognizes the cumulative nature of concussions," Tator said. "The more you've had, the more careful you have to be because you're running down your reserves. The fact that he had one other concussion and was out two weeks, he would be more susceptible to a second concussion. And it always takes longer to recover from the second one and longer to recover from the third."

Lightning coach Rick Tocchet on Thursday said Smith, who has missed five games, is "status quo," though he has started "a little bit" riding a stationary bike.

"I don't think Smitty is the kind of guy when he's ready to go he needs a lot of practice time," Tocchet said. "He's such a good athlete and in good shape. He could come in tomorrow and say, 'I feel really good,' and get a couple of practices. But right now, our concern is his health."

FIVE-ON-THREE WOES: Tampa Bay has been so bad with two-man advantages (four goals entering Thursday), Tocchet said he would change personnel "if we're fortunate enough to have a five-on-three against Toronto."

Instead, Tocchet said, semi-seriously, he threatened the power-play unit before the game: "I told those guys, 'That's it, last chance.' "

And when the Lightning got a five-on-three late in the first period, he called timeout before Mark Recchi's goal that made it 3-1 with 4:43 left.

"I told them, 'I'm not going to tell you what to do,' " Tocchet said. "Maybe that's it. I've got to keep my mouth shut."

ODDS AND ENDS: Recchi, with his 534th career goal, passed Frank Mahovlich for 29th all time. … D Josef Melichar wore No. 6 in his Lightning debut and had an assist. … RW Steve Downie (lower body), LW David Koci and D Paul Ranger (upper body) were scratched.

Waiting possibly worsened Smith's injury 02/12/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 13, 2009 7:58am]

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