Tampa Bay Lightning
Bolts' Smith eager to get back in crease
TAMPA - Although Mike Smith didn't actually keep a running tally, he estimates he has been asked one single question about 1,000 times throughout the summer: "How are you doing with your concussion?" "The thing with the concussion, everything is 100 percent as far as that goes," Smith said Saturday as he took part in activities during Lightning Fan Fest. Smith has not seen action since he left the ice Jan. 30 during a game against Philadelphia and was diagnosed with a concussion. The concussion went unreported to the team's medical staff for more than a month after he was accidently kneed in the head by teammate Vinny Prospal during a game.The road back has been long and frustrating for the 27-year-old native of Kingston, Ontario. But other than some minor neck issues stemming from a prior situation, there are no more hurdles to clear as he gets set to regain the form he showed in the first half of last season, his first shot at earning No. 1 status. "There are some small issues with the neck, but there is nothing that is going to affect my play or anything like that," Smith said. "I've probably been doing more this summer than I have done in the past to get ready." It hasn't been an easy path, however, as it took longer than many expected for Smith to clear any symptoms, which included headaches and seeing black dots in his vision. It's a process he said has been humbling is some ways. "It's been beyond belief. With injuries they get better and this one seemed to just linger on and get better," Smith said. "The most frustrating part of it was nobody really knew what was going on and it was up the air. "Was it a concussion? Was it neck? Seeing different doctors and (them) telling me different things. Sooner or later it got into my head, 'What is going on with me, what is the problem?' But you have to overcome hurdles that are in your path in life and this was a little bigger one." Smith has gotten back on the ice within the past month and is preparing for the Sept. 12 opening of training camp. Though he hasn't been facing pucks on a regular basis - and certainly none that are coming at him at 100 mph - he said he has no concerns about getting back into the crease. "I'm a big believer that if you think about it, you are probably going to get hurt again," he said. "You can't go through life thinking about what's going to happen down the road. So I'm just going to go out everyday, take it all one day at a time and enjoy it, play my best and whatever happens, happens. "But having said that, I feel strong. I did a whole new training regimen this summer strengthening my upper back and my neck muscles that I hadn't had before. So I'm excited. I'm pumped about what's gone on with the organization and excited about where I'm at as far as my physical well being."
Reporter Erik Erlendsson can be reached at (813) 259-7835.