MUM ON MIKE
Flames playing cards close to vest on status of goalie Smith, but he didn’t travel with them to Detroit
The Calgary Flames flew to Detroit on Tuesday for the start a six-game road trip.
But Mike Smith wasn’t with them.
And the details regarding the 35-year-old’s injury that he suffered during the first period of Monday’s 7-4 win against the St. Louis Blues were cloudy.
The team was off on Tuesday opting for a travel day only, which led to some citywide stress over the availability of Smith moving forward. And for what it’s worth, there were no American Hockey League transactions on Tuesday evening that involved the Flames’ affiliate Stockton Heat, the big club and goaltenders David Rittich or Jon Gillies.
No question, however, an extended absence could potentially be a problem. Smith has started 16 of 17 games for the Flames this season and has been arguably one of the reasons why they’re 10-7-0 sitting in seventh in the Western Conference. He has a 9-6-0 record with a 2.63 goals-against average and .921 save percentage and has been one of the busiest netminders in the NHL.
Flames GM Brad Treliving was staying mum on the subject Tuesday and promised an update Wednesday on Smith’s situation.
One potential cause of the injury could have been when Smith received the brunt of a smash-up in his crease after Scottie Upshall drove Travis Hamonic into Smith, causing a brouhaha between the players.
But the team wasn’t revealing anything on Tuesday.
Smith was evaluated after the first period and did not return, even on the bench in a back-up capacity. So, Eddie Lack came to the rescue.
“Smitty pretty much told me right away that I was going in,” Lack said. “I was just doing what I could do prepare and trying to get my eyes going and my legs a little bit. I just tried to go out there and play my game.”
He did that, and by doing so he went from zero to hero — especially in the third period.
Shortly after Vladimir Tarasenko scored a crucial third-period goal to knot the game 4-4, the Scotiabank Saddledome showed their displeasure by (unfairly?) booing Lack and then, shortly after, gave him a sarcastic Bronx Cheer following a routine save.
So, what does he do?
With four minutes left in the game and the Flames up 5-4, the 29-year-old likeable Swede made a fantastic paddle stop on Dmitrij Jaskin to preserve the lead late in the game.
So, what do the fans do? Break out in “Eddie, Edd-ie” chants.
“I got booed two minutes before,” Lack said with a laugh. “After that save
I got the ‘Edd-ie, Edd-ie’ chants. It’s very black and white in this business, to be honest. You know what, it was huge and it was definitely a win that I wanted.”
It was also Lack’s first win as a member of the Calgary Flames.
Albeit, he’s only had three tries — once in a relief appearance Oct. 13 as the Flames were pumped 6-0 by the Ottawa Senators, one start against the Blues on Oct. 25 (a 5-2 loss at Scottrade Center) and Monday, which was another relief performance.
“It’s obviously not the way I thought it was going to be,” Lack said. “I, for sure, didn’t play my best game. But I thought I made a good save when it mattered the most in the third … (games are) always different than practice. You can go through repetitions over and over and over. But you can’t really simulate the games.
“I’m hoping to get a little more consistency.”
Aside from the injury news, the reality is this: Smith was never expected to play all 82 games, despite his starter’s status, and over the weekend, Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan mentioned finding Lack some playing time.
“(Lack) has looked really good and has kind of gotten his game back,” Gulutzan had said. “At the end of the day, it’s tough for goalies to play 75 games. As good of shape Smitty is in, you still only want him to be in the
60s. So, we’re going to get Eddie going here right away.”
And the timing of Monday’s test-drive may have worked out in the back-up’s favour.
“I’ve been talking to Gully and he thinks I’ve been playing really well in practice,” Lack said. “We are going to try and get me some consistency here and a couple more starts than one in 17.
“I really have no idea how Smitty’s doing and we’ll take it day by day.”
The Flames open their marathon road swing Wednesday at Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena against the Red Wings (5:30 p.m. MT, Sportsnet, Sportsnet 960 The
Fan). Calgary is on a twogame win streak after beating Detroit 6-3 on Thursday and the Blues on Monday.
“Smitty pretty much told me right away that I was going in.” Flames goalie Eddie Lack, after starter mike smith was injured during a scrum in the crease during monday night’s game
Flames d-man Travis Hamonic is pushed into goalie Mike Smith by the Blues’ Scottie Upshall on Monday night at the Dome. MIKE SMITH
Left early in Monday’s game