While Mike Smith hadn’t exactly been stellar for the Phoenix Coyotes the past five games, he still remains the best option in goal for his team to win and move toward the postseason. In Thursday’s loss to the Vancouver Canucks, Smith was shaken up during second-period collisions with Daniel Sedin and Alexander Edler. Jason LaBarbera replaced Smith for the third period, and Edler was later suspended for two games for the hit behind the net.
The Coyotes recalled Chad Johnson from the Portland Pirates of the AHL as an emergency backup, and the hope is that Smith will return to practice tomorrow. The Coyotes’ next game is Monday against the Detroit Red Wings, so there is at least a little time for Smith to heal. Despite his recent struggles, Smith is still one of the premier goaltenders in the league and has carried a Coyotes team that isn’t very high-scoring.
LaBarbera hasn’t seen much work this season, and hasn’t been very impressive when he has played. He is 1-4-0 with a 2.20 goals-against average, and that one win came Jan. 23 in his first action of the season. Johnson made two starts in January when Smith was out with a lower-body injury, and was 1-01 with a 0.98 goals-against average. While either backup netminder has looked capable of getting wins at the NHL level, neither has the experience needed to lead the Coyotes to a postseason berth.
The Coyotes are in 11th place at the moment, just two points away from a playoff spot. If they are going to make a late push to the postseason, they need Smith’s injury to be minor, and for him to not only return soon but return to top form as well.