When Mike Smith fell injured, it looked as though he could be facing another long term stay on the sideline, but the Coyotes got some good news on the injury front Sunday.
For the Arizona Coyotes to take a step forward this season, they were going to need goaltender Mike Smith to rediscover his former Vezina Trophy candidate form. A massive wrench got thrown in Smith’s season just two games into the campaign, though, when he went down with what looked like a serious lower-body injury.
However, after sitting on the sideline for four games, it appears the bad news may not be as awful as some would have assumed.
According to AZ Central’s Sarah McLellan, Smith, 34, is considered “week-to-week” with a lower-body ailment after what appeared to be a pretty serious injury to his left leg during the Coyotes’ Oct. 18 game against the Ottawa Senators. Smith left the team this past week to head back to Arizona and he will miss the Coyotes’ next two games — at New Jersey and at Philadelphia — but there’s at least a glimmer of hope he could be ready by the start of November.
“He’s in good spirits back home,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said of Smith’s injury, according to McLellan. “And we’ll see where he’s at next week.”
The news that Smith’s injury isn’t a long-term one couldn’t come at a better time for the Coyotes, either. Backup netminder Louis Domingue, 24, earned himself a two-year contract extension in the off-season thanks to a stellar performance in place of an injured Smith during the 2015-16 campaign, but Domingue has been nowhere near as solid in place of his veteran counterpart this time around.
In four games since Smith went down, Domingue has registered a loss in each game. First came an ugly three goals against on 11 shots in relief of Smith against the Senators, and Domingue has allowed at least three goals against in each of his subsequent starts. While it’s a small sample size and his numbers should level out over the course of the year, that Domingue has a 5.03 goals against average and .851 save percentage in four starts is about as indicative of his struggles as it gets.
It’s because of Domingue’s struggles, too, that the Coyotes have to be hoping they can get Smith back sooner rather than later. Though he hasn’t been a top-five — or even a top-ten — goaltender in the league over the past few seasons, Smith is still the best option the Coyotes have.
Smith had an abysmal 2014-15 season in which he posted a 3.16 GAA and .904 SP, but he bounced back in 2015-16 with marks of 2.63 and .916 despite missing 40 consecutive games due to injury. If he can get back soon and build on that, increasing his SP to closer to .920, the Coyotes could benefit in a big way.
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