That sigh of relief from the Flames in Boston Tuesday morning likely was felt all the way back in Calgary.
The lower body injury suffered by goaltender Mike Smith Sunday against the Islanders in Brooklyn is not as bad as first feared, and coach Glen Gulutzan told reporters following the morning skate at TD Garden that Smith is to be sidelined on a day-to-day basis. Gultuzan added that Smith is out Tuesday against the Bruins and will not play in Nashville against the Predators on Thursday, the finale of Calgary’s season-high six-game road trip.
Results from an MRI confirmed the positive diagnosis.
“Arguably, he’s been our MVP,” Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said of Smith.
Smith suffered the lower-body injury while reaching for a John Tavares left-wing shot with 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation of Sunday’s 3-2 Flames’ victory. In distress, Smith was helped from the ice and David Rittich came off the bench for the game’s final face off.
“It’s tough…you never want to see it (happen),” Gulutzan told reporters after the Islanders’ game. “We’ll deal with it when we know exactly what we are dealing with.”
Tuesday’s contest is the fifth game of the Flames current six-game road trip in which they have won three of four, so far. The Flames summoned Jon Gillies from AHL Stockton to back up Rittich. Stockton’s other goalie, Tyler Parsons, also suffered an undisclosed injury on Sunday.
“It would be a huge blow to our team,” Gultuzan said of any possible long-term injury to Smith. “He’s a guy that takes such good care of himself, and we’re hoping this will be minor. But if it isn’t, we’ve got other guys that can come in. It’s what other teams have had to do this year.”
Rittich, the affable and capable 25-year-old backup, is next in line behind Smith, who appeared in the NHL All Star Game just a couple of weeks ago. Rittich backstopped Calgary’s 3-2 victory over the Devils last Thursday and is 5-1-2 with a 2.20 GAA and .927 save percentage in 10 appearances (seven starts) since recalled from the minors on Nov. 24. All five of his wins have come on the road.
“He’s been playing really well for us,” Gultuzan said of Rittich after the Devils game. “It’s not just in the games we like him. He’s a real good goalie in practice. He is an extremely hard worker which translates into the games he’s played. He’s given us a chance every time he’s gone in there.”
Still, it’s not easy to replicate what Smith brings to the Flames. In his first season in Calgary, the 35-year-old is tied for sixth in the NHL with 23 wins, tied for tenth with a .921 save percentage, and is tied with Toronto’s Frederik Andersen for the league-lead with 47 starts between the pipes.
Teammates, like fellow All Star Johnny Gaudreau, are well aware of Smith’s value.
“He’s meant so much to us this season,” Gaudreau told Sporting News Canada recently. “His play on the ice speaks for itself; and his leadership is huge for this group.”
THIS STORY WILL BE UPDATED WHENEVER THERE IS MORE NEWS ON MIKE SMITH’S INJURY STATUS
Article source: http://www.sportingnews.com/ca/nhl/news/nhl-injury-news-calgary-flames-brace-possible-mike-smith-absence-new-york-islanders-lower-body-groin-all-star-david-rittich-glen-gulutzan/10tdrjf1t80l518mcrdu3ccjbk