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The Desert Dog Blog: Smith Passes First Test

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

GLENDALE – The Coyotes lost to Vancouver, 1-0, on Monday night in a preseason matchup at Rogers Arena, but goalie Mike Smith performed well in his first official test of 2015-16.

Smith made 23 saves and allowed only a power-play goal by Jared McCann at 8:34 of the third period on a shot partially screened by defenseman Zbynek Michalek.

Sure it counts as a loss, but it was a good outing for Smith, who knows the Coyotes are counting on him to shake off a forgettable 2014-15 season and play a crucial role moving forward as they look to end a three-year playoff drought.

"’Smitty’ has to be better and we have to play better in front of him’" Head Coach Dave Tippett said recently. "I think the team we have in front of them will give our goaltenders a better chance to be successful, but we need the kind of goalie we know ‘Smitty’ can be, too."

To that end, Smith altered his pre-training camp routine to get in more work with new Goaltending Coach Jon Elkin in Toronto.

“I’m further ahead than I’ve been in the past with the on-ice part of it and I’m excited about that,” Smith said on the first day of training camp. “(I’m) getting back to fundamentals and moving a lot better than I had... We’ve worked on a few things that have gotten away from me over the last few years.”

Smith and Elkin, who has replaced Sean Burke, go back to when Smith was tending goal at 12 years of age; he’ll turn 34 in March. The two are good friends off the ice so I asked Elkin, 47, if that could be problematic with regard to their relationship as goalie coach and goalie.

“One can be friends with players that they’re coaching,” Elkin told me. “They are two separate things as long as both parties know how to separate it. Like my grandfather used to say, ‘Business is business and Schnapps is Schnapps.’

There’s a time for just relaxing and enjoying each other’s company and there’s also a time when it’s time to get to work. The most important thing is we have a mutual respect and understanding of each other, and that’s very helpful for the work we are doing on the ice.”

Elkin, who has coached 21 NHL goalies, has been at training camp since it began but he will maintain his home in Toronto where he operates Jon Elkin’s Goalie Schools – at which Smith was both a student and then an instructor. The plan is for Elkin to be around the team between 15 and 20 days per month and for him to watch film of Smith - and backup Anders Lindback - during the stretches when there is limited practice time.

“He’ll be here enough that I get enough good work in and hopefully the rest can take care of itself,” Smith said. “And I won’t need him (at practice) too much. There’s not a guy who knows my game better than Jon… I’m definitely excited to have him on board.”

While researching this blog I stumbled across a blog written by Elkin about Smith back in 2012. It’s a fascinating read that I recommend all Mike Smith fans check out.

Here’s a teaser:

Mike Smith is the greatest goaltender I have coached and I have coached some big name goaltenders. I say this, not because he is the most talented, but because he has done more with his natural ability than any one else I have ever come across. Talent and potential in a player is great, but passion, heart and determination can be far better precursors to success. Just ask Mike Smith.”

Read the rest here.

NOTE: Smith will not be in net tonight when the Coyotes play at Edmonton at 6 p.m. However, he is expected to play in the preseason finale on Friday vs. San Jose at Gila River Arena.

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