DENVER -- The Colorado Avalanche know they could be in for a difficult game Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes and goalie Mike Smith at Pepsi Center.
Smith has frustrated the Avalanche as much as any goalie in the NHL, using his size (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) and ability to move from side to side to fashion an 8-1-3 record in 12 games against them, with a 1.85 goals-against average, .940 save percentage and one shutout.
"I think it's his athleticism," Avalanche center Matt Duchene said. "I played with him last season at Worlds [2013 IIHF World Championship] and I couldn't believe how good that guy is, especially for playing as deep in the net as he does. You can see a lot of net at times but it doesn't necessarily mean it's there. He's so good with his reflexes. You get a goal on him you know you did something really right."
The Avalanche had 44 shots at Smith on Nov. 21 and needed an overtime goal from Ryan O'Reilly for a 4-3 win against the Coyotes.
"We have to do the same thing, get a lot of shots and rebounds," Duchene said. "I think we scored more against him last time than he's used to against us."
It's an important game for both teams. The Avalanche enter Tuesday eighth in the Western Conference with 40 points in 28 games while the Coyotes are ninth with 37 points in 29 games.
"You look at the standings right now and it's the first time all season we've been outside the playoffs looking in," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "These conference games are huge. We know it's going to be a tight game and we've got to find ways to give ourselves the best chance to win."
The Coyotes will be without captain Shane Doan, who will miss his second game in a row because of illness, but defenseman Zbynek Michalek could play after missing nine games with a lower-body injury.
"It's a possibility," Tippett said. "He felt good in practice [Monday] and he felt good [Tuesday] morning."
The Coyotes recalled forward Gilbert Brule from the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League and he could be in the lineup Tuesday. Brule had seven goals and five assists in 11 games with the Pirates.
"He's been their best player down there," Tippett said. "I'm not sure if he'll play. We'll see how the lineup shakes out, but he worked his way up to a call-up by playing very well."
The Coyotes have gone 2-4-2 in their past eight games while the Avalanche lost two of three games on their recent trip through western Canada.
"This is a very important game for us," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "We need to be sharp. We need to have a very good start. We're going to have to be sharp because this is a good team. There's not a doubt in my mind that we're going to have to be really good."
Here are the projected lineups for the Coyotes and Avalanche:
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Gilbert Brule
Tim Kennedy - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Kyle Chipchura - Mike Ribeiro - David Moss
Rob Klinkhammer - Jeff Halpern - Jordan Szwarz
Keith Yandle - Zbynek Michalek
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michael Stone
David Schlemko - David Rundblad
Scratched: Paul Bissonnette, Derek Morris, Connor Murphy
Injured: Shane Doan (ill), Lauri Korpikoski (upper body)
Ryan O'Reilly - Matt Duchene - PA Parenteau
Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - Nathan MacKinnon
Jamie McGinn - John Mitchell - Maxime Talbot
Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Patrick Bordeleau
Nick Holden - Erik Johnson
Tyson Barrie - Nate Guenin
Andre Benoit - Cory Sarich
Scratched: Brad Malone
Injured: Jan Hejda (knee), Alex Tanguay (knee, hip), Ryan Wilson (back)
Notes: Patrick Roy said Tuesday that right wing Alex Tanguay, who sustained a knee injury Nov. 2 against the Montreal Canadiens, "is not doing well" and will remain sidelined indefinitely. "He had a bit of a setback," Roy said. "The knee is not the thing that bothers him the most right now, it's the hip. It's been a concern since the start of his injury. We were hoping he had turned the corner, but I guess it's not. Right now it's not going well."