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‘Yotes Notes: Smith Sharp in 1st Game Since Surgery

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes

Mike Smith returned to the Coyotes net after a 95-day absence on Saturday night and stopped all 44 shots he faced to lead Arizona to a 4-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place.

“I didn’t feel good,” Smith told FOX Sports Arizona after the game. “I’m not going to lie. But the goal wasn’t to come in and feel unbelievable. It’s part of the process. I didn't expect this. It was a challenging night. But saying that, it's definitely a confidence builder.”

Smith was the opposite of rusty in his first game since undergoing core muscle surgery in mid-December. He looked sharp in posting his second shutout of the season and the 29th of his NHL career, and ending a personal four-game losing streak.

“We did a lot of good things tonight in front of me,” Smith said. Our ‘D’ were fantastic… I know we gave up a lot of shots but I don’t think we gave up many rebounds or second opportunities.”

The Coyotes held their collective breath after Oilers forward Adam Cracknell smashed hard into Smith on a breakaway in the second period, but Smith was unfazed by the collision and stayed in the game.

Head Coach Dave Tippett was impressed by Smith’s performance.

“We put him in a tough situation and he reacted and played very, very well,” Tippett said. “…It was a solid team win. I think the guys wanted to play well for 'Smitty' and 'Smitty' certainly did his part.”

Smith hadn’t played since Dec. 8, but on Friday he told Tippett he was ready to get back into the lineup after weeks of practicing.

“It's definitely exciting to be back out there and to feel the mojo again and be around the guys,” Smith said. “It was nice to get back tonight.”

• Center Antoine Vermette chipped in two goals and an assist as the Coyotes extended their point streak vs. Edmonton to 22 games. Vermette has produced four goals and five assists in the past five games.

“He’s taking advantage of his opportunities,” Tippett said. “His goals are off good chances that he’s creating and he’s capitalizing on them.”

• Forward Alex Tanguay notched his third goal in five games since coming to the Coyotes via a trade with Colorado on Feb. 29. Tanguay scored during a 5-on-3 power play at 10:17 of the second period.

• Captain Shane Doan set up Vermette’s first goal for his 548th assist. He is now two shy of tying Dale Hawerchuk for second place on the franchise’s all-time assists list. Thomas Steen is the all-time leader with 553.

• Forward Viktor Tikhonov scored Arizona’s first goal via a deflection at 12:26 of the first period. It was Tikhonov’s first goal since New Year’s Eve – a span of 21 games.

“He’s a real smart player and plays well in all situations,” Tippett said of Tikhonov, who has been more noticeable on the ice over the past few games. “He has some good skill, and playing on a line with (Martin) Hanzal and (Tobias) Rieder, they’re a real responsible line out there that can play against anybody. He’s played well lately.”

• Defenseman Zbynek Michalek was shaken up but stayed in the game after getting hit in the throat with a deflected puck at 3:10 of the second period.

• The Coyotes played without defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson for a third consecutive game on Saturday. Ekman-Larsson suffered an upper-body injury on Monday at Colorado.

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