The Edmonton Oilers will be without their preferred starter in net for a little while. Head coach Dave Tippett announced Thursday that Mike Smith will be out one to two weeks with a partially torn thumb tendon. Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic reports that the plan is to recall Stuart Skinner, but the team is awaiting COVID testing results.
Smith returned from injury in late December and has played three games, his last coming on Jan. 5. That only took his total on the year to six, however, as he has continued to miss time throughout the year due to various setbacks. That has left Mikko Koskinen as the regular starter, but he has struggled to carry the load and currently has a .900 save percentage. Koskinen and Tippett traded words through the media earlier this month, frustrations that will have to be quashed for the time being while Smith is out.
The question now will become whether Skinner, a 23-year-old netminder with just one game of NHL experience prior to this season, could run with the job. In 10 appearances this year he has a .916 save percentage, though five of those games have ended in losses. He’s been excellent in his rare appearances for the Bakersfield Condors too and perhaps is ready for a jump to the next level.
Edmonton has high hopes for this season despite recent struggles. Evander Kane has been linked strongly to the team as a potential free agent signing, while general manager Ken Holland recently said that he believes the answer is going to come from internal growth. The team is set to resume the season on Saturday against the Ottawa Senators, playing for the first time in 10 days. The Oilers are currently on a five-game losing streak and now sit sixth in the Pacific Division.
Smith meanwhile is signed through next season despite turning 40 in March and now missing almost the entire first half of this year. The veteran netminder carries a cap hit of $2.2M on a new two-year deal he signed last July and will actually earn a larger salary ($2.5M) in 2022-23 than he is owed this season.