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'Yotes Notes: Smith Takes 'Step in the Right Direction'

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes


GLENDALE – Goalie Mike Smith stopped 23 of 26 shots on Saturday to earn his first victory since Dec. 1.

"I felt good," Smith said after Arizona’s 6-3 victory over Columbus at Gila River Arena. "I felt at ease going into that game. I felt like I was prepared mentally. I was prepared to get back in there, so there were no issues tonight. A couple goals (allowed) were a little jumpy, but that (comes) with not playing."

Smith

Smith was making his first appearance since allowing four goals on 11 shots vs. Vancouver on Dec. 22. While Devan Dubnyk played well in Smith’s place since then, Smith worked hard in practice awaiting his next opportunity.

Head Coach Dave Tippett liked what he saw from Smith in recent practices and in Saturday’s game.

"I think it was a step in the right direction," Tippett said. "He made a couple good saves when it was 2-2… A couple more days in practice and hopefully he can continue to push the wins along."

• Center Martin Hanzal was back at practice on Sunday morning a little more than 12 hours after posting a third career-high four-point game against Columbus while battling flu-like symptoms.

Hanzal played only 14:01 – his second-lightest workload of the season – but his presence in front of the Columbus net keyed the team’s win - its fourth in the past five games. Hanzal assisted on three goals and scored one himself at 19:17 of the second period that turned out to be the game-winner. All four of Hanzal’s points came within a span of 18:30.

"We had a meeting about getting right in front of the net and not a step or a foot to the side," Hanzal said. "I was just trying to get right in front and be greasy, and it paid off. The points are great but I’m more happy about the win. It was a good effort by everyone."

Hanzal

Hanzal entered the game with two four-point games for the Coyotes, but in those games he didn’t need to take a break because of illness like he did on Saturday when he took a couple of shifts off early in the second period.

"He's such a big man in front. It's tough to see around (him)," Smith said. "He works hard at it. He deserves to get those points in the paint."

• Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored his 10th goal of the season in Saturday’s win. He now co-leads the team in that department with center Antoine Vermette, and his 10 goals rank tied for first in the NHL among defensemen. Ekman-Larsson has scored seven of his 10 goals on power plays – tops among NHL defensemen.

• The Coyotes were angered when Blue Jackets forward Jack Skille delivered a slew foot to Ekman-Larsson in the second period. Center Joe Vitale, who was back in the lineup after a two-game absence because of injury, later fought Skille as payback.

That pleased Tippett.

"I thought Joe did a very nice job. I'll just say that about his whole game," Tippett said with a smile.

• The Coyotes parted ways with defenseman David Schlemko on Saturday. The Dallas Stars claimed Schlemko after Arizona placed him on waivers for the second time this season.

Schlemko notched nine goals and 50 points in 207 games with the Coyotes.

"When you inject young players into your lineup, somebody is always going to pay the price for that,” Tippett said. “…It's a good reset button for ‘Schlemmer.’ He can go and try to have a great second half of the season and earn himself another contract."

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