The Phoenix Coyotes suffered a 4-0 loss at the hands of the San Jose Sharks on Monday, and now face increasingly long odds to make the playoffs. Four of their final six games are on the road, where the team has a 5-9-6 record this season. To make matters worse, star goaltender Mike Smith has once again been sidelined with a lower-body injury, and is considered day-to-day. Smith’s injury forced backup Jason LaBarbera into action against the Sharks on Monday, and the Coyotes have since called up Chad Johnson from the Portland Pirates of the AHL.
This isn’t the first time Smith has been sidelined this season, and the Coyotes have struggled in his absence. Smith is also set to be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and is now going to miss out on a few games of a stretch run that could have guaranteed him a big payday. LaBarbera made 37 saves on 41 San Jose shots, and is now 3-6-2 on the season. At this point, the coyotes might as well put Johnson in, as the longtime AHLer has been solid in his three appearances this season. Johnson is 2-0-1 with a 1.32 goals-against average and one shutout this season. Smith has shown he can still be the goaltender that helped lead the Coyotes to the Western Conference finals last season (13 wins, five shutouts), but has also had a few stretches of consecutive poor performances.
The Coyotes head into Tuesday night four points out of a playoff spot, but have lost three of their last four games and would need to pass the Dallas Stars, Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings to reach the postseason.