Mike Smith, who played for the Lightning from 2007-11, makes his return to Tampa Bay Times Forum, and in the time since he left much has changed for the 31-year-old goalie.
When Smith was obtained in a trade with the Dallas Stars, hopes were high that Tampa Bay had settled its goaltending picture for the foreseeable future.
It didn't work that way. Smith occasionally flashed signs of brilliance but was inconsistent and finished his time in Tampa Bay with a demotion to the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League.
"It was a tough situation, being sent to the minors," Smith said. "I never thought I'd play in the NHL again so I was just making the best of the situation. Obviously I got a second chance and I was very fortunate."
His second chance came when he signed with Phoenix as a free agent July 1, 2011. Since then he has been a stabilizing force for the Coyotes and won a gold medal with Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
"I'm a different goaltender now than I was when I was here [in Tampa Bay]," Smith said. "Technically a little bit, but mentally Phoenix has been a great opportunity for me and working with goaltending coach Sean Burke has been a career-changer for me. My mindset going into every game is not to worry about the outcome, just worry about what I can control. Having that mindset every game, not worrying about wins or losses, makes it easier to enjoy the game and play to my capabilities."
Will a good showing in net Monday against the Lightning give Smith a sense of redemption?
"I'm beyond it now," Smith said. "I think it's more exciting just to come back here for the first time and feel good about my game. We're in an important playoff push so there is no time for worrying about redemption."
That playoff push was on the mind of Phoenix coach Dave Tippett, who plans to shake up his lines Monday.
"We'll shuffle some things around," Tippett said. "Obviously if you look at where we are at, it's not working. We just haven't played well enough and there are some young guys we'll put in and see if they can generate some speed and aggressiveness for us."
In for the Coyotes will be defenseman Brandon Gormley, making his NHL debut. He'll be paired with defenseman Chris Summers, his partner with Portland of the AHL. It will be the second game this season for Summers, who played 15:29 on March 8 in a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals.
Also in the lineup is Andy Miele, recalled from Portland on March 9.
"I'm not sure if it is going to be any better," Tippett said, "but I know what we were doing wasn't good enough, so we'll err on the side of trying."
The Lightning will be trying to snap a four-game winless skid (0-3-1) after losing 4-3 in a shootout to the Boston Bruins on Saturday. That game ended after a seven-round shootout. Coach Jon Cooper said that the result, and the outlook for Tampa Bay, easily could have been different.
"Maybe have one guy score in seven shootout attempts?" Cooper said. "Last game we were right there. A shootout attempt? You tell me with seven guys not one guy was going to score? That would have pulled us out of it. Just our play, our effort, our structure has been better. We somehow have to find a way to get points now."
Here are the projected lineups for the Coyotes and Lightning:
Injured: David Schlemko (lower body)
Injured: Radko Gudas (lower body)
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