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At the Rink blog

Coyotes turn to Greiss against Flames

Tuesday, 01.07.2014 / 3:09 PM

By Jerry Brown - NHL.com Correspondent / 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

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2013-2014 At the Rink Blog
Coyotes turn to Greiss against Flames

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes are sending five players to the 2014 Sochi Olympics next month, but three of them will not be in the lineup Tuesday when they face the Calgary Flames.

Goalie Mike Smith, who was named to Canada's team Tuesday, will get the night off. Defensemen Oliver Ekman-Larsson, selected to Sweden's team Tuesday, and Zbynek Michalek (Czech Republic) remain out with injuries for the Coyotes, although both were on the ice Tuesday and are getting closer to playing.

Backup goalie Thomas Greiss, who is 5-2-1 with a 2.13 goals against average in 10 games, will make his seventh start of the season for the Coyotes, who have one win in their past six games (1-2-3).

But Phoenix coach Dave Tippett was clear that Smith, who is 1-4-3 in his past nine starts and saw his goals against average rise to 2.89 following a 5-3 loss against the Philadelphia Flyers Saturday, remains the No. 1 goaltender.

"We're not close to thinking about a change," Tippett said. "Not even close. I think he'll work through it. He wants to be a top goaltender and he knows he hasn't played to that level yet. But I think we can play better in front of him too."

Smith knows the improvement starts with him.

"I've been up and down," he said. "I've had some good stretches but not consistent enough as far as I'm concerned. For the last few games I haven't made enough big saves at important times. Those are the saves that separate a mediocre goalie from a top-echelon goalie."

Tippett said Ekman-Larsson is improving and could play as soon as Thursday against the Minnesota Wild but said he will be careful with Michalek, who has been dealing with his lower-body injury for nearly two months.

Michalek missed nine games, from Nov. 14 to Dec. 6, before coming back for four games and aggravating the injury. He will miss his eighth straight contest Tuesday.

"He's still pretty limited but moving in the right direction," Tippett said. "It will be longer than last time. Last time I think he kind of pushed it a little bit and this time we're going to make sure he goes through all the steps without re-hurting it. We want to see if we can get him going for a longer period of time."

The Coyotes have 11 of their 17 games before the Olympic break at home, but that hasn't been a good thing recently. After a 9-0-1 start at Jobing.com Arena the Coyotes are 2-5-2 in their past nine home games.

"Being home is big if you win the games," Smith said. "We rely on everyone to help us win hockey games and we've gotten away from that a little and played more river hockey than we're used to. We have to tighten it up defensively and that will help us offensively as well."

Here is a look at the lineups Calgary and Phoenix likely will go with Tuesday:

FLAMES

Mike Cammalleri - Mikael Backlund - Jiri Hudler

Paul Byron - Sean Monahan - David Jones

TJ Galiardi - Joe Colborne - Kevin Westgarth

Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan - Brian McGrattan

Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie

Ladislav Smid - Dennis Wideman

Chris Butler - Shane O'Brien

Karri Ramo

Reto Berra

Scratched: Derek Smith, Lee Stempniak

Injured: Curtis Glencross (leg), Blair Jones (knee), Kris Russell (knee)

COYOTES

Lauri Korpikoski - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata

Shane Doan - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker

Rob Klinkhammer - Mike Ribeiro - David Moss

Kyle Chipchura - Jeff Halpern - Paul Bissonnette

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris

Connor Murphy - Rostislav Klesla

David Schlemko - Michael Stone

Thomas Greiss

Mike Smith

Scratched: David Rundblad, Tim Kennedy

Injured: Zbynek Michalek (hip), Oliver Ekman-Larsson (upper body)

Quote of the Day

Just the feel for the direction they were headed and what they're trying to do, it just felt that this is a really good thing for this organization. They've got the pieces. We can put something together and go on a run or two and be together for a while, and I'm really excited about that opportunity. The team we have here has an opportunity to win, and that's the most attractive thing.

— Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen on why he decided to sign with the Capitals