March 10, 2014
TORONTO– Marlies head coach Steve Spott got the most he could from captain Trevor Smith in Sunday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Wilke-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Smith, who returned to the Marlies lineup Friday against the Lake Erie Monsters after being demoted by the Maple Leafs, scored once and set up another against the Penguins, despite playing hurt.
“He’s not 100 per cent, so the fact he gave us those minutes, the big goal, it was excellent,” said Spott.
Smith suited up for the Marlies Friday in a fight-filled game against the Monsters, but skipped Saturday’s rematch to nurse an injury suffered in the loss.
“It’s lower back I won’t hide it,” said Spott. “It’s from a slew foot he received in Lake Erie, a bruised tail bone.”
While he could have taken Sunday off as well, the captain knew it would be best to play if his body would allow him to do so.
“I wanted to get back into the lineup, get this game in,” said Smith. “(Getting) in game shape is huge for me.”
Smith centred Toronto’s second line on Sunday, with Josh Leivo and Brandon Kozun on the wings, and for the first 40 minutes the line made little impact.
“I felt good out there, just a matter of being on the same page with the guys,” said Smith, who was with the Leafs when the Marlies acquired Kozun.
In the third period, however, Smith made a difference as he set up Toronto’s second goal of the night and then scored to put his club up 3-2.
“NHL goal, everybody in this building including myself thought he was passing it,” said Spott.
With the 29-year-old back on the roster, Spott changed up his power-play units Sunday and used Smith on a line with Leivo and centre Greg McKegg on the wing while T.J. Brennan and forward Spencer Abbott ran the point.
It paid off when Smith won a face-off back to the point and Abbott snapped it past Penguins netminder Jeff Deslauriers to tie the game.
“Our power play at times can get stale and Trevor really becomes a surrogate coach,” said Spott. “He forces Abbott, McKegg, Leivo to be better. He makes them shoot the puck.”
Prior to being sent down, Smith missed a significant amount of time with the Leafs because of a broken hand, as well as an undisclosed injury that occurred in the weight room, and has been away from consistent game action since early December.
Toronto doesn’t play again until Mar. 14 when it faces the Rochester Americans, so Smith has the week to practice with his new line mates while letting his back recover.
In nine games this season with the Marlies, Smith has five goals and 14 points. And Spott knows that for his club to have any success at this point in the year Smith will need to be at his best.
“He’s our captain, he’s our leader and we’ll need him down the stretch.”