Via Twitter, the Tampa Bay Lightning let-it-be-known that Antero Niittymaki will be making the start between the pipes tomorrow against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Niittymaki impressed in his two starts of the season last Saturday versus the Hurricanes and last Monday against the Florida Panthers. On 59 total shots against, he has made 55 saves.
Compare this directly to anointed #1 goalie Mike Smith, who has looked shaky in net while posting a .864 save percentage and a 4.08 GAA on 108 shots, and you see the reason for the switch. Smith has also played horrifically in one-on-one situations this season -- which was highlighted last night during breakaways. It's also been clearly evident since training camp in shoot-out scenarios.
While it would be much grander to be able to let Mike worth through any difficulties he's having right now -- it's just too much of a liability to go that route. At the same time, this may be a lone start for Niittymaki, and we'll find Smith back in net versus San Jose next week at the Forum? But if this is a larger change, then I'd like to suggest sending Smith on a conditioning assignment to Norfolk if possible. It's important that Mike does get a chance to work through his issues and regain confidence...
In another swap, Steve Downie returns to the line of Alex Tanguay and Vincent Lecavalier. Downie has impressed wherever he's gone -- and he's kept his cool. That being said, the Tanguay-Lecavalier-Downie line hasn't clicked much yet with scoring. Or Tanguay-Lecavalier-Vellieux for that matter. The Bolts likely will continue to explore options on Lecavalier's right wing until they are comfortable with who is playing there