The Calgary Flames took to the practice ice at Winsport on Saturday afternoon as they prepare to host the New York Islanders Sunday evening. The big question on everyone’s minds: when will Flames top goaltender Mike Smith return to action?
The short answer: Smith skated today and indicated that everything is feeling better than it has in awhile, but he stopped short of saying he was back. He’ll speak to head coach Glen Gulutzan tomorrow morning and the team will make a decision one way or another.
The Flames had all three goaltenders on the ice for their optional skate. David Rittich came off first, then Smith and then Jon Gillies. While he was on the ice, Smith saw a lot of shots and looked very much like his “usual” self. Speaking with the media following the skate – and cautioning during his chat that he hadn’t spoken with Gulutzan or Brad Treliving yet about how he felt on the ice – Smith described his thought processes in regards to his recovery and how he’ll know when he’s ready to go.
You want to be healthy to start with. And after that, you want to be physically strong enough to be able to go compete at the highest level. And then there’s a mental aspect where you want to be free. In the position we play, you can’t go out there and be tentative. You want to be free and I feel like the past three days I’ve really came a long way in that department, where mentally I’ve been able to not worry about making saves and just kind of reacting, and that’s probably the last piece that needs to come to be able to get back in there and compete at the highest level. Like I said, I don’t want to come back and be mediocre. I want to come back where I left off. That’s kind of a double-edged sword as far as know when that time is, but it’s getting close.
Smith was originally injured in the dying seconds of Calgary’s 2-1 victory over the Islanders back on Feb. 11. In 13 games without him, the Flames have posted a 5-6-2 record and slid a bit in the Western Conference playoff race. In his absence, his role has been filled by Rittich and Gillies with mixed results.
- Rittich has gone 3-4-1 with a 3.49 goals against average and .888 save percentage
- Gillies has gone 2-2-1 with a 2.53 goals against average and .916 save percentage
If Smith returns tomorrow, logic dictates that he’ll probably start (otherwise, what’s the point in him dressing). If he dresses, Gillies will be immediately returned to the AHL as he’s up with the Flames on an emergency recall.
Glen Gulutzan tells HockeyCentral Saturday that he expects Mike Smith to play goal tomorrow vs NYI…but can't confirm it until he talks to Smith later tonight.
— John Shannon (@JSportsnet) March 10, 2018