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Smith returns to practice with Flames

Goaltender hasn't played since getting injured Feb. 11 @NHLdotcom

Mike Smith practiced with the Calgary Flames on Tuesday for the first time since the goaltender sustained a lower-body injury Feb. 11, though there's no timetable for his return to game action.

Smith had the flu and didn't travel with the Flames when they left for a road trip that began with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. But he joined the Flames in Buffalo on Tuesday and took part in an optional skate at KeyBank Center.

The Flames play at the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. ET; SN, MSG-B, NHL.TV).

"It was nice to get back with the guys," Smith said. "Obviously it's been a while since I practiced. I've been working with [goaltending coach Jordan Sigalet] a little bit and felt it was time to test it with live shooters and some different situations. It was good.

"There's still some soreness involved, but I think with any injury there's going to be that when you push it a little harder. It's taking it day by day and hopefully get a little bit better here and get back in the lineup soon."

Smith was injured during the final seconds of a 3-2 win at the New York Islanders. Rookie David Rittich finished that game and has split the starting job with rookie Jon Gillies since Smith's injury.

Smith is 23-16-6 with a 2.53 goals-against average, a .921 save percentage and two shutouts. The Flames (32-25-10) are three points behind the Los Angeles Kings for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference and four points behind the Anaheim Ducks for third place in the Pacific Division.

Calgary is 3-6-2 since Smith was injured.

"It's like getting any other top guy back," Flames coach Glen Gulutzan said. "When they start to skate, it starts to create a little excitement, and Smitty is no different for us."

Smith said he doesn't have a target date in mind for his return.

"It's day by day," he said. "I'm trying to improve every day, strengthen, get comfortable, and when I'm ready, I'll know. I think that's the main thing. I'll know when I'm ready to go.

"I'm the first one to tell you I want to be back in there tomorrow. But I think I need some time to get with the team, practicing, up to speed here. I'll know when the time is right."

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