Devante Smith-Pelly has yet to play in the preseason and to this point, neither he nor head coach Todd Reirden has specifically confirmed why. Reirden has offered only a cryptic explanation saying “He's still trying to get to the level where he was at last year and until he does, it doesn't do us any good as a team or for him to be playing in games.”
On Tuesday, Isabelle Khurshudyan of the Washington Post reported Smith-Pelly’s absence was conditioning related. On Thursday after practice, however, he denied that conditioning was the issue.
“No,” he said when asked if his absence was due to conditioning. “I don't think so. We're going to keep what happened in-house. I don't need to talk about it. But no.”
Reirden was also asked about Smith-Pelly’s conditioning on Thursday. While he did not specifically say that was the reason Smith-Pelly been held out of the lineup, he did make clear that conditioning was something the veteran winger needed to continue working on.
"He's working really hard to get to the level that I'd like to see him at,” Reirden said to reporters. “I've commented on that pretty much every day. That's what we're working towards. When that happens then expect to see him."
With only two preseason games remaining on the schedule, the clock is ticking for Smith-Pelly to get any game action before the start of the regular season.
Smith-Pelly said he did not know for certain if he would play in Friday’s game, but assumed he would. Reirden said a decision would be made regarding the winger’s status later in the day on Thursday.
The continued absence of Smith-Pelly has raised questions over whether he will be ready for the start of the season. If he is at a point where playing him in the preseason doesn’t do the team or the player any good despite the fact that the results do not matter, then it is fair to wonder with the regular season now one week away whether he will be ready.
Smith-Pelly, however, is not concerned saying that, despite missing the first five preseason games, he can still get up to speed for the season if he only plays in the final two.
“You don't need to play seven or three or four,” Smith-Pelly said. “Two or three games is probably everyone's wheelhouse.”
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