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Jeremy Smith Set To Make NHL Debut

The Colorado goaltender has played eight seasons in the minors

by Ron Knabenbauer @RonKnab /

NEWARK, N.J.--Goaltender Jeremy Smith will make his NHL debut tonight as the Colorado Avalanche continues its season-long five-game road trip versus the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center.

The 27-year-old is in his eighth professional campaign and his first with the Avalanche organization. Smith signed with Colorado as a free agent on July 1 and began the year in the American Hockey league with the San Antonio Rampage. In 17 AHL games this season, he has put together a 5-8-1 record and has posted a 2.57 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

Smith, who was selected by the Nashville Predators No. 54 overall in the second round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, has played 265 AHL contests in his career with the Rampage, Milwaukee Admirals, Springfield Falcons, Providence Bruins and Iowa Wild. He's also appeared in 43 outings with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL.

A native of Dearborn, Michigan, Smith stayed close to home to play junior hockey in Plymouth. He was with the Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League for two and a half seasons, beginning in 2006-07, before being traded to the Niagara IceDogs to help with their playoff push in 2008-09.

Recalled from San Antonio for the second time this season last Wednesday, the netminder has provided support as a backup for Calvin Pickard for eight games this year, including the last three.

In an interview with in December, Smith said he approaches each NHL contest mentally prepared to take the crease.

"You're always ready for the game," Smith said of the prospects of someday playing in the league. "For me, it's just another game. I'll prepare myself the same way for the last eight years as a pro. If it comes, it comes. If not, just keep working on my game to get better every day."

Pickard had started each of the previous five contests, but he'll get some extra rest going into the team's eighth back-to-back set of the year on Thursday and Friday in Buffalo and Carolina.

With this being Smith's first year in the Colorado organization, it also marked his first opportunity to work with goaltending coach Francois Allaire and learn a new system.

"Starting with camp, it was like a whole new game plan. It was really eye opening for me," Smith said. "Now, it is fine-tuning my game because I've worked so hard to bring it to where it is with Francois. Now it's just making small adjustments to really perfect my game."

Video: Jeremy Smith on his time with the Avs

Tonight's matchup with the Devils will be the first of the season for the Avalanche, and the only time the clubs will face off in New Jersey. Game time is at 5 p.m. MT.

Colorado is playing on Valentine's Day for the third straight year and the eighth time since moving to Denver in 1995-96. The team is 3-3-1 on Feb. 14 and 2-1-0 on the road.

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