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Smid makes his return to the NHL tonight

by Marc Ciampa / Edmonton Oilers
After being recalled yesterday from the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League, Ladislav Smid plays his first game of the NHL season tonight for the Oilers.Smid admittedly struggled at times in the pre-season and that coupled with the fact that Tom Gilbert looked ready to make the step to the NHL full time resulted in Smid’s demotion to the AHL.

“I was really disappointed,” said Smid of his surprise assignment to the minors. “I played last year but I’m still a young guy and I needed to improve a couple things.”

As the exhibition season went on, it looked like the Oilers were going to have to make a decision with nine NHL capable defencemen on the roster.

“I felt good in the first two (pre-season) games but then we played Vancouver in the last game and it was pretty bad for me. They scored four goals against us,” Smid noted.

With the top six defencemen essentially set – Souray, Pitkanen, Staios, Greene, Tarnstrom and Gilbert – the Oilers didn’t want Smid to be up in the pressbox. The decision was made to move him to the minors so the 21 year old could play and work on some aspects of his game.

“They sent me there because I needed to work on my defensive game. I think I did that,” he said.

Smid started off slowly with no points and a -1 rating through his first three games. In his fourth game, he was held off the scoresheet again but was +3. He then proceeded to pick up points in each of the next three games.

“He’s played well,” said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. “He started off where he was just average but his game’s really picked up in the last little while. It looks to be good timing and we want to bring him here to see what he can do.”

Overall, in eight games Smid has a goal and four assists in Springfield. Smid’s strong play has contributed to Kelly Buchberger’s Falcons currently ranking first overall in the entire AHL.

“He’s a really good coach,” Smid said of Buchberger. “We’ve been working a lot on forechecking and the defensive game so it’s been pretty good.”

Smid has played in every situation and logged a ton of minutes with Springfield – certainly more beneficial than the spot duty he may have seen over the first three weeks of the NHL campaign.

“I played a lot – PK, PP – so I feel really good right now,” he remarked. “I got my game back so I hope I’m going to help”

Last season, Smid played 77 games in the NHL and had three goals and 10 points as a 20 year old. His defence partner most nights was Steve Staios and the two will be back together tonight.

“I’m going to play with Stevie so that’s good news for me. I like to play with him so he’s going to help me a lot, I think,” said Smid.

The season before last, Smid spent the entire year in the AHL with the Portland Pirates. This time around being in the minor leagues was a lot different for him.

“I’m a little bit older and I had experience from last year in the NHL so I could use it there,” he said. “In the NHL it’s more about the systems and there it’s more about energy and skating.”
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