According to the Phoenix Coyotes, starting goaltender Mike Smith will return from a lower-body injury and start Friday night against the Dallas Stars.
"He's going to play tomorrow, barring anything between now and then," Coyotes goaltending coach Sean Burke told NHL.com Thursday. "He'll go out in the morning skate tomorrow and if everything goes well he'll play tomorrow night in Dallas."
Smith, who enjoyed a breakout year last season in Phoenix when he set career highs in games (67), wins (38), minutes (3.902), goals-against average (2.21) and save percentage (.930), missed four games with the injury. He initially suffered a groin injury during pregame warm-ups before the Jan. 23 game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was pulled from that game after facing four shots and was officially placed on the injured reserve list Monday.
According to Dave Vest, the Coyotes senior director of news content, Smith participated in the team's optional skate Thursday before declaring himself ready to play.
"It's gotten a lot better over the last few days, so I'm excited to get back in the lineup. I'm ready," Smith said.
In his absence, the Coyotes suffered losses to the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings in which backup Jason LaBarbera stopped 57 of 65 shots for an .877 save percentage. Following those two losses, Phoenix decided to replace LaBarbera as starter with Chad Johnson, who was called up from the American Hockey League's Portland Pirates on Monday. In the two games Johnson started, Phoenix went 1-0-1 with Johnson allowing two goals, including Nail Yakupov's overtime winner on the power play for the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night.
"I think we've played a lot better as of late ... so it's an exciting time to get back in," Smith said.