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SMITH READY FOR NEXT CHAPTER IN HIS CAREER

The veteran netminder relishes the pressure that comes with playing in a Canadian market

by GEORGE JOHNSON @GJohnsonFlames / CalgaryFlames.com

The beard's in place, although not the snow white of technicolour movie legend. No staff to be seen, strolling into the Ed Whalen Media Lounge for the first time. 

No stone tablets to tote.

The only commandment being: Thy must stop the puck.

Mike Smith doesn't plan on taking on the role of Moses.

But he can be that guy to lead the people out of the wilderness, if need be.

"The position calls for that,'' says the newest Flame, on introduction day down at the Scotiabank Saddledome. "I've taken it upon myself to be that guy, every time I go on the ice.

"I'm one guy who wears his heart on his sleeve.

"I want to win so bad that sometimes it can work against me. I think, though, with experience in the league I've learned how to handle that, how to be a solid force back there.

"I think I can bring some leadership, be a calming influence back there."

In slipping the No. 41 jersey on for the first time at the media availability, Smith mused.

"Feels real now."

It's Mike Smith's show now.

"Having that guy you can roll out every night is important,'' said Flames' general manager Brad Trelviing. "I also think the way the schedule is now, the cramped-ness, even in a non-Olympic, non-World Cup year, we're looking at how we can best complement Mike. 

"But there's a mindset No.-1 guys have. It's a hard position. Some days it doesn't go great, having to deal with that pressure, is a different thing, too.

"He's been there, done that."

On Monday, the Flames unveiled their two major end-of-season acquisitions - Smith and defenceman Travis Hamonic.

"The thing we loved about (Smith),'' says assistant GM Craig Conroy, "is that he had a great run this year, a great year, despite having the most chances against of any goalie of the 36 goalies we went through.

"I remember them coming in here and blowing us out and you're thinking 'Boy.' With our top four on defence, I don't think anybody has to come in here be THE saviour. But if he can go on a run of eight-to-10 games, put the team on his back every once in a while, so much the better.

"And this guy can.

"I remember that series he beat Detroit and (Arizona) went to the conference final. He was unbelievable every night. Do we need that kind of goaltending? We'd like to have the option of having it there, in place, let's say that."

Treliving, of course, has a history with Smith dating back to their days together in Arizona. What sticks out particularly, always has, with Mike Smith is his downright disgust with defeat.

"You play cards with him and he gets salty if he loses,'' says Treliving. "I like that. You can never have too much competitiveness. He's ultra-competitive. Michael, you have to calm him down sometimes. But I always found it's easier to pull the reins back on a horse than kick him in the rear end.

"His end-game is as good as anybody's. There's been some inconsistency the last little while, he'll be the first to tell you that, but we're trying to build a group in front of him that he doesn't have to steal the game every night.

"But no matter how good your team, you still look back at your goaltender some nights and he's going to have to be really good."

Following up on the addition of Smith, Treliving pulled another rabbit out of his top hat at the NHL Draft in Chicago on Saturday, prying Travis Hamonic out of Long Island to complete a Fab Four - Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie - on the blueline.

"When I heard that, I was like 'Wow!','' Smith laughs. "After the news broke that I'd been traded, I talked to Brad and he told me he was hoping to add another significant piece.

"So my first thought (Saturday) was: 'Man, he really meant it.'

"Obviously the D-corps to begin with had three of the top guys in the league. Then you add a guy like that, it's a special four.

"I look forward to getting to know them and playing behind them."

Having arrived in Calgary, Smith is aiming for a quick acclimatization.

"Moving is always difficult. You meet friends and people outside the game, trainers, staff, and those relationships will last forever.

"But the chance at new relationships is always exciting. This team has so much potential. They're here to win, they way they've built from the ground up. Really the core group of guys here are young, talented players that can be game changers.

"I just want to come in and help be a part of something special."

Smith and wife Brigitte, a former Olympic skier who knows Calgary well, were touring town around in search of digs before he arrived at the rink.

"Hopefully we nailed something down today,'' he reports.

"Everything looks to be falling into place. We didn't just want to come in August and be searching for a place to live.

"More and more, it seems like everything is meant to be.

"The whole situation, as it continues to set in, the more it feels right at this point in my career."

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