“‘Smitty’ will play tomorrow night and we’ll read and react from there,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said after Wednesday’s practice. “‘Smitty’ came back, and the way he played the other night is the way we all envisioned, not necessarily a shutout all the time, but playing well and being an impact (player) on our team.”
Smith said the four-day break from games has served him well in between starts.
“It’s been nice,” Smith said. “It was pretty sore after the game so obviously it’s nice to have a layoff in between games.”
Smith has played well vs. San Jose in his NHL career. In 17 games he has posted a 9-5-2 record and a .940 save percentage. Four of his 29 NHL shutouts have come vs. the Sharks.
Louis Domingue likely will get a start this weekend when the Coyotes play back-to-back games on Saturday (vs. Tampa Bay) and Sunday (at San Jose).
• Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson skated with teammates at Wednesday’s practice and could return to the lineup on Thursday.
Ekman-Larsson, who leads the Coyotes with 49 points, has missed the past three games because of an upper-body injury suffered March 7 at Colorado.
“He’s close,” Tippett said. “He got through the whole practice and everything, which is a good sign, but we’ll see where he is at tomorrow’s morning skate.”
• Forward Viktor Tikhonov had a solid road trip and has made it hard for Tippett to remove him from the lineup.
With 14 healthy forwards on the roster, the competition for playing time has intensified with 13 games to play.
“Everybody wants ice time,” Tippett said. “‘Tiki’ missed a couple days when his wife had the baby, and then he’s come back and he’s worked very hard. We put him in a game to get him up and going and he played very well in the last two games of the trip. So good for him to recognize that and to do what it takes to not just get in there but to stay in there.”
Tikhonov averaged 18 shifts per game over the past three games. He said playing with center Martin Hanzal and winger Tobias Rieder on the 2-1-1 road trip was a positive experience.
“It was definitely a good road trip,” Tikhonov said. “I felt really good physically, and playing on the new line there with Marty and Tobi, they’re really fun to play with. Tobi just flies and you’ve just got to give him the puck and he’ll make something happen every time. The game just gets a little easier with them. When you put in the hard work with guys like that good things happen, and that’s kind of what we’ve got to keep doing.”
Tikhonov enjoys playing against the Sharks. That’s because he grew up in the San Jose area while his father served as an assistant coach with the team.
“It’s always special,” said Tikhonov, who has notched one goal in five games vs. San Jose. “I think it’s a little more special when we play at that rink because there’s so many memories there with my dad coaching there and going to every singe home game for seven, eight years. I kind of know that building pretty well, but just seeing that logo on the ice it brings back those memories so it’s always fun.”