Mike Smith (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
Arizona Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith will be out 8-10 weeks following surgery to repair a “core muscle injury.” Smith, 33, has started 22 of 30 games for the Coyotes. It will be up to backup Anders Lindback to carry the load with Smith on the sideline.
The Arizona Coyotes are sitting in second place in the Pacific Division through 30 games thanks in large part to a quick start, a few three-game win streaks and mediocre play by the rest of the division. The Coyotes are being chased, though, and their second-place standing took a serious blow Tuesday.
The Coyotes announced that goaltender Mike Smith, who has started 22 of 30 games this season, will be sidelined for the next 8-10 weeks following surgery to repair a core muscle injury. Smith, 33, had missed the past two games with an undisclosed lower-body injury, but few would have expected it to be so serious that the injury will jeopardize the rest of the Coyotes campaign.
Smith has a 10-9-1 record, one shutout, 3.06 goals-against average and .901 save percentage in 22 games this season. If he’s out the full 10 weeks, Smith stands to miss 30-plus games. Even on the low end, Smith will miss nearly 30 games, meaning the Coyotes will need to either rely on backup netminder Anders Lindback or go out and acquire a goaltender to fill the starting role with Smith out.
Already, GM Don Maloney has admitted he’ll be looking at the market to see what’s available in the way of a netminder to fill in for Smith. According to Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan, Maloney said Lindback will get the “bulk of work,” before Maloney added he’d look at other options.
Few goaltenders this season have been under siege on a nightly basis quite like Smith. Of the 28 netminders to play at least 750 minutes at 5-on-5, only the Rangers’ Henrik Lundqvist, Oilers’ Anders Nilsson, Maple Leafs’ James Reimer and Senators’ Craig Anderson have faced more shots per 60 minutes of even strength play. And while Smith was far from an all-star netminder so far this season, he was still outperforming Lindback. Of the 43 goaltenders who had played at least 400 minutes at 5-on-5, Lindback ranks 34th with a save percentage of .914. Smith ranks 32nd at .919.
This had been somewhat of a bounce back year for Smith, too. In 2014-15, he was one of the worst starting goaltenders in the league on a poor Coyotes squad. This season, he had played well enough to keep Arizona in the Pacific Division race, even if his numbers are from his career-best .930 SP and 2.21 GAA he posted in 2011-12.
Louis Domingue had been recalled from the AHL’s Springfield Falcons when Smith first went down, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the 25-year-old gets a shot between the pipes soon. In 13 games in the AHL, he has a 6-6-1 record, 2.55 GAA and .919 SP. He was a fifth-round pick, 138th overall, of the Coyotes in 2010.
Losing Smith would hurt the Coyotes less if they had a bluechip prospect in goal -- or even one who was NHL ready right now -- but their coffers are empty when it comes to goaltending prospects. Finding a serviceable goaltender to keep the team afloat is going to be difficult, and it might be a matter of the Coyotes offense getting white hot if Arizona has any chance of surviving with Smith out.