Mike Smith returns to Edmonton Oilers; Mikko Koskinen enters COVID-19 protocol

Mike Smith is back again for the Edmonton Oilers, and this time, he hopes it’s to stay.

“It’s been a work in progress, dealing with an injury that has never happened before,” Smith said after Monday afternoon’s practice, referring to a thumb injury he suffered on Dec. 31 against New Jersey.

It was Smith’s second injury of the season. He was first hurt (on his lower body) on Oct. 19 against Anaheim and has appeared in just six of the Oilers’ 42 games.

“It’s been difficult for sure. I’m not going to lie,” Smith said.

“It’s the frustrating part of being an athlete. No one ever wants to be on the sidelines, especially when you come back, play a couple of games and be back on the shelf again.”

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Smith, who’s 2-2-1 with an .898 save percentage, is one of the best puck-handling goalies in the NHL. Could the thumb injury hinder that ability?

“We’ll see, I guess. I’m just going to focus on keeping it simple out there. It’s not ideal, but it’s something I’ve been able to work through,” explained Smith.

“Smitty, obviously, is a great goaltender, first and foremost. On top of that, he brings a lot of life to the room, a lot of competition to the ice. Guys really feed off it. We’re happy to have him back,” said defenceman Darnell Nurse.

Goalie Mikko Koskinen was placed in COVID-19 protocol Monday afternoon.

Stuart Skinner is expected to back up Smith against Vegas on Tuesday. The Face-off Show starts at 5:30 p.m. and the game is at 7 p.m.

Oil Kings goalie Kolby Hay filled in for Koskinen at practice.

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