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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

“I’m Available”

While I stand to be corrected, I don’t think the Corski and Fenski crowd has an advanced stat specifically used to measure swagger and attitude. That said, there’s no doubt whatsoever the Edmonton Oilers have more of both when Mike Smith is standing in the blue paint.

Or that the Oilers have been a better team over the last couple of years when they have Smith rumbling around between the pipes. That’s exactly where he could find himself Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues after declaring himself available for action today for the first time since the Oilers’ third game of the season.

There are numbers for that beyond the garden variety seasonal digits Smith has put up, and Jason Gregor compiled some of them today that underline just how much sway the always-animated stopper with the big flow and motor to match has had on the fortunes of the Oilers over the past two calendar years.

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THE SMITH FACTOR

To hear Smith tell it today, he’s been all over the place with the injury – he still won’t say what it is – that nagged him even before it forced him out of a game against the Anaheim Ducks back on Oct. 19. Some days he’s felt ready to give it a go, but the story each time has been that he isn’t ready to play. Today, it was “I’m available, so we’ll see what coach has to say.” We’ll see about how that plays out soon enough.

“I feel like I’ve had a two-and-a-half-month Christmas break,” Smith said after skating at Clare Drake Arena today. “Obviously, it’s unfortunate the last week being off, but I feel like I’m close enough to where I need to get in a game now.

“It’s honestly been one of the most difficult injuries of my career. It’s not like it’s been life-threatening by any means, it’s just been a nagging thing that’s kept me from doing what I need to be able to do. That’s been the most frustrating part. I’ve been close a few times and had setbacks.

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“I’m to the point now where it’s not perfect either, but nothing’s been perfect through the course of my career, so it’s just something I have to deal with and, hopefully, I can come back in the line-up and play some good hockey.

“I’ve had a couple of surgeries that have put me out. It’s not like I haven’t been injured before and come back from something. It’s just, like I said, this one was way more finicky than the one before. The one before had a timeline. This one just seemed like it lingered on . . .”

THE BOTTOM LINE

Oct 13, 2021; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) makes a save on Vancouver Canucks forward Elias Peterson (40) during overtime at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

By any measure here and now, the Oilers are better when they have Smith tending goal than when they put Mikko Koskinen or Stuart Skinner in the crease. That much we know. Overall, they’ve both actually been reasonably good – especially Skinner — during the 26 games Smith has been out, but when he’s ready to play, Smith is the guy. So, tomorrow?

Beyond Smith being declared medically fit and taken off IR, what coach Dave Tippett and GM Ken Holland need is a roster spot and cap space to add him. That will bring Bakersfield or the taxi squad into play for Koskinen or Skinner, who is waivers exempt. 

Previously by Robin Brownlee