GLENDALE – Anders Lindback is being asked to replace Mike Smith as the Coyotes starting goalie while Smith recovers from core muscle surgery over the next two months or more.
“Obviously that’s not what we hoped for and hopefully he’ll get back quick here, but it’s a big opportunity for me and something you work hard for,” Lindback said on Tuesday, moments after the team announced Smith’s status. “I just want to make the most of it and get out there every game and try to help this team get as many points as we can.”
Asked if or how his approach would change as the starter, Lindback said: “You’ve got to have the same mindset and just compete every day and try to get better.”
Head Coach Dave Tippett said he is confident Lindback can thrive as the team’s starter.
“It’s not as if he hasn’t done it before,” Tippett said. “He’s jumped in there and played well in some games. It will be a good challenge for him and a challenge for us to play well in front of him. We have to play well in front of the goalie no matter who it is. That’s our mission right now. We have to play well in front of the goalie and give him the best chance to be successful.”
Tippett said Smith tried to play through his injury but all parties eventually realized that wasn’t a long-term solution.
“Something had to be done,” Tippett said. “We’ll certainly miss him but there are some injuries you can play with and some you can’t, and it became evident that he couldn’t play the way he wanted to. So it will be a good opportunity for the other guys. We’ll have to hunker down and try to find a way to overcome that.”
Lindback signed with the Coyotes as an unrestricted free agent last summer. He has posted a 4-5-1 record in his first season with Arizona, his fifth NHL team. His goals-against average this season is 2.92 and his save percentage is .900.
“I think I gave the team a chance in most of my starts and in a couple of reliefs I think I’ve played well, but of course for a starting goalie you need to step it up and you need to be able to steal some games here and there and really be steady at all times," Lindback said.
Playing regularly for Buffalo at the end of last season, Lindback notched a .924 save percentage and a 2.76 goals-against average in 16 games.
Lindback said he has enjoyed working with Coyotes Goaltending Coach Jon Elkin this season. He said Ekin is a master at teaching the small details that make a goalie successful. He credits Elkin with helping him keep calm while in goal and play with more patience.
“I don’t waste as much energy and I don’t feel as jumpy,” Lindback said.
Lindback’s career-high for games played in a season as an NHLer is 24 with Tampa Bay in 2012-13. He likely will smash that record this season. With that in mind, how will he handle the pressure?
“I think I put the most pressure on myself all the time,” Lindback said. “It doesn’t matter if I play two games every year or 70, I want to be as good as I can be. I try to have that mindset. The pressure is always there but it’s something we have to handle.”
Lindback, 27, is a native of Gavle, Sweden. He began his NHL career in 2010-11 as Pekka Rinne's backup with the Nashville Predators, the team that selected him 207th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. He played 38 games for the Predators over two seasons before moving on to Tampa Bay and Dallas. On Feb. 11, 2015, the Stars traded him to Buffalo.
Lindback's time as Rinne's backup early in his career served him well.
"I believe he can be a great goalie in this league," Rinne told the Buffalo News late last season. "…I've always felt 'Lindy' is a true professional that works hard. That's how it starts and that's how you keep it going."