Depending on how you feel about goaltender Mike Smith, there’s good news or bad news when it comes to his injury status and getting into game action for the Edmonton Oilers. The veteran netminder was back with the team on Thursday and could be activated off LTIR as early as this Sunday.
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** Note: We had originally posted that Smith could be available for Saturday. Bob Stauffer of Oilers Now and 630 CHED has clarified the earliest Smith could come off LTIR is Sunday, making him an option for Monday’s game.
At the end of January, head coach Dave Tippett said Smith could be back as early as next week, making Monday’s game against the Ottawa Senators a possibility as Smith’s first of the season. There was also talk the Oilers might give him extra time but he was skating with the main group during Thursday’s session. Even if he’s not completely ready to go by then, that the Oilers could finally have their 1B to Mikko Koskinen as a 1A is potentially good news.
Early into the 2020-21 NHL season, it was learned that the Oilers were going to have to put Smith on LTIR and that created a domino effect for the team’s goaltending situation as the club had already waived Anton Forsberg and lost him on waivers. The team promoted Stuart Skinner, but has played him in only one game — a win over the Ottawa Senators in which Skinner allowed five goals — and recently suited up Troy Grosenick to back up Koskinen in Edmonton’s latest win.
The Oilers will have some housecleaning to do and it’s not clear which direction they’ll lean.
The good news is, Tony Brar of the Oilers official website said, “Smith is a full participant in today’s practice and looking like his acrobatic self. His athleticism on full display.”
When Would Smith Play?
If Smith is deemed healthy and able to go, the next questions will be when the Oilers should try to get him in. During the offseason, it was believed Smith would get a good chunk of the starts for the team, splitting time with Koskinen. That said, Koskinen has delivered in a big way.
While the Oilers have allowed a few too many goals, the Oilers may choose to continue to ride Koskinen who has hardly been the reason for the teams’ 6-6 record. Some are concerned that Smith might not have the goods and his lengthy absence won’t quiet the naysayers.
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