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BLOG: Smith suffers setback

Oilers goaltender expected to miss one to two weeks with partial tendon tear in thumb

by Paul Gazzola / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - After Mike Smith was absent from practice on Thursday, Head Coach Dave Tippett revealed that the goaltender will be on the shelf for a short period due to a re-aggravated thumb injury.

"Mike Smith had an MRI on his thumb yesterday and was found to have a partial tear of a tendon," Tippett told the media. "He's going to miss a week to two weeks."

Smith suffered an undisclosed injury against the Anaheim Ducks on Oct. 19 that kept him out of the lineup for 27 games before he returned to action against the New Jersey Devils on New Year's Eve. In extra innings in Newark, the 39-year-old managed to make a pair of breakaway saves but suffered a sprained thumb in the process as the club gained a point in the 6-5 overtime defeat.

Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 01.13.22

He got back between the pipes to face the Toronto Maple Leafs in a 4-2 loss on Jan. 5 and held court in the starter's crease at Oilers practice on Wednesday. At one point during Wednesday's session, Smith skated to the bench to receive attention from the Oilers medical staff and then upon further evaluation, it was determined that the wound required more rest to fully heal.

"He practiced yesterday and it was bothering him," Tippett added. "He decided to get some pictures taken of it. It's an injury that they got to give a little bit of time to settle down."

The 6-foot-5, 220-pound net protector - who backstopped the Oilers to the playoffs with a 21-6-2 record, .923 save percentage, 2.31 goals-against average and three shutouts in the 2020-21 season - has appeared in six games over the '21-22 campaign, going 2-2-1.

Tippett remarked on Smith's importance to the squad and the series of misfortune he's experienced with all the ailments this season. Known as a fierce competitor in the crease, the 648-game veteran entertained the idea of playing through the tendon tear.

Video: PRACTICE | A Fine Line 01.13.22 

"He's a key guy on our team," Tippett said. "We expected the two guys to share the net. He talked today about playing through it but they want to give him at least a week off. It's been a challenge with him out, that's for sure."

With unexperienced netminder Ilya Konovalov in COVID-19 Protocol, the Oilers recalled Stuart Skinner from the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League. The 23-year-old was up with the big club while Smith was recovering in November and December - compiling four wins, five losses and a .916 save percentage in an Oilers uniform - and has dominated in the AHL with two shutouts, a 1.96 goals-against average and a 6-0-2 record. The impressive body of work has granted him confidence from the Orange & Blue brass.

"Skinner's played very well lately," Tippett said. "If he wasn't going to be playing here much, he would get down there to keep playing and he has, other than the game that got cancelled the other day. We're very comfortable bringing him up and playing him. He's shown he can play at this level."

Edmonton is set to resume their schedule when they host the Ottawa Senators at Rogers Place on Saturday.

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