Smith has posted back-to-back shutouts, earning him NHL Third Star of the Week honours. He had three in a row from March 29 to April 3, 2012, while playing for the Phoenix Coyotes.
“I didn’t even recall that,” chuckled Smith after Tuesday’s practice at Rogers Place. “That was a great year. That was a turning point kind of season for my career. I’ve said it all along that you want to be playing your best hockey at this time of the season. That was my first taste of being the guy and getting a chance to play a lot.”
Smith, who turned 40 on March 22, is now 8-0-1 in his nine starts for the Oilers. This comes after he missed almost the entire first half of the season with injury and at times looked like his best days were behind him. His perseverance hasn’t gone unnoticed by his teammates.
“I think it was a tough go for him. He couldn’t stay healthy, little nagging injuries that kept him out for a while. He got back on a stretch where we played really bad hockey,” said Leon Draisaitl.
“We’ve been better in front of him. He’s been amazing. So has Koski the last couple months. They’ve been huge for us. We got a lot of trust in those two.”
Smith has enjoyed having a three of his sons take a twirl before practices in the past few days. He’s glad his kids enjoy hockey but also wants them to try other sports if they’re interested.
“I can remember being a kid and my dad and mom putting me in soccer. I played ball competitively until I was about 17. It was softball. It was very competitive, high level. I had some of my fondest memories at the ball field as much as at the hockey rink,” said Smith.
Smith was a catcher. He finally had to pick a sport to specialize in when he had an opportunity to play for Kingston in the Ontario Hockey League.
“It was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. I think I made the right one. Men’s softball is not really a high-paying job. But I really enjoyed it as much as or more as I did hockey at that time in my life,” recalled Smith.
The hockey is working really well right now. Smith has gone 133 minutes without allowing a goal. The Oilers record of 192:53 was set by Tommy Salo in March 2001.
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