(Sports Network) - Mike Smith turned in the kind of performance on Saturday
that shows why the Phoenix Coyotes can still be contenders this season.
The Coyotes hope to ride their goaltender to a fifth straight game with a
point on Monday evening as they play host to the Minnesota Wild.
Smith had a breakout campaign in 2011-12, going 38-18-10 with a 2.21 goals
against average, .930 save percentage and eight shutouts. However, he
struggled in losing his first two starts of this season, allowing 10 goals on
57 shots before exiting a Jan. 23 start early due to a groin injury.
That held him out of four straight games, but he helped Phoenix earn a point
in Friday's shootout loss in Dallas before logging 17 saves in Saturday's 2-0
win over the Stars to finish off a home-and-home series.
Smith logged the 20th shutout of his career and earned his first win of the
"Obviously, it hasn't gone the way I'd have liked it to so far this season,
but tonight was a better indication of where my game needs to be. It obviously
wasn't really busy, but it was nice to gain some confidence," said Smith, who
has a 3.06 GAA and .873 save percentage this season.
Nick Johnson and Mikkel Boedker provided the tallies for the Coyotes, who
had lost two straight but are 2-0-2 in their past four.
"After the first period it was a pretty complete game from us," Phoenix coach
Dave Tippett said. "I thought territorially we did a lot of good things."
Forward Raffi Torres made his season debut for Phoenix after serving a 21-game
suspension handed down during last season's playoffs for an illegal hit versus
While the Coyotes went 2-1-1 in four meetings with the Wild last season and
have won eight of their past 12 in this series, Minnesota has claimed victory
in three of its past four in Phoenix.
The Wild, though, failed to log a third straight victory on Friday as they
dropped a 3-1 decision in Anaheim. Marco Scandella scored in the first for
Minnesota, but the Ducks ripped off three straight goals.
"They did a better job than us," Minnesota forward Dany Heatley admitted. "We
have to do a better job of creating stuff. Our game plan was there, we just
Niklas Backstrom was charged with three goals on 31 shots for the Wild, who
fell to 0-2-1 on the road this season.
Minnesota recalled forward Charlie Coyle from the AHL and he may make his NHL
debut in this game. He joined a line with Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Matt Cullen
in practice on Sunday.
The 20-year-old Coyle, a former first-round pick of the San Jose Sharks, has
24 points in 44 games with the Houston Aeros this season.
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