BLUE JACKETS (16-16-3) at COYOTES (14-19-4)
TV: FS-O, FS-A
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Arizona Coyotes goalie Devan Dubnyk, a pleasant surprise this season at 9-4-2 with a 2.70 goals-against average and .918 save percentage, has started the past four games.
The Coyotes will give No. 1 goalie Mike Smith a chance to break out of his season-long funk when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets at Gila River Arena on Saturday.
Smith, who carried Arizona to the Western Conference Final in 2012 and played just as well late last season, is 5-15-2 record with a 3.48 goals-against average, leaving him searching for answers and on the bench watching.
Dubnyk allowed all the goals in a 6-0 loss against the Dallas Stars on Wednesday, providing coach Dave Tippett an opportunity to give Smith another try.
"You want to be in games and you want to help your team win and contribute," Smith said. "Obviously it's been tough to be on the other side of it, although I've been there before. Having said that, [Dubnyk] has deserved to play. He's given the team some wins and he's played better than I have. Selfishly I want to be in there."
Smith has been working more on his own of late, with goaltending coach Sean Burke helping Canada at the IIHF World Junior Championship.
"It's been kind of nice," Smith said. "I love [Burke], but it's good once in a while to not see him. I think I've gotten good work in without him, and at this point in my career, I understand what to do. He's been a great coach and mentor, but working things through on my own isn't a bad thing.
"I put a lot of pressure on myself to go and win games, and it's unrealistic to do that. I've felt good on the ice in practice and now I want to feel good after a game and get another start because of it. It's been tough being in and out and knowing if you don't win you're not going to play. That's the way it's been lately, and it's been tough mentally. I feel like I'm in a good place now and ready to get back in there."
Smith hasn't started a game since Dec. 22, when he was pulled early in the second period of a 7-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks.
"It seems like a year since I've been in a game," Smith said.
Dubnyk won three straight starts before losing in Dallas, and Tippett said he deserved to keep playing.
"Hopefully, Mike can get to the top of his game and go on a run like [Dubnyk] did," Tippett said.
As Arizona (14-19-4) continues the fight to get back to .500, the Blue Jackets, who started the season 6-15-2, accomplished that with a 3-1 win against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday. Goalie Sergei Bobvrosky won all but one of the December games, and had a 2.13 goals-against average for the month.
Columbus has relied on its power play to get the job done offensively. The Blue Jackets have 30 power-play goals, more than a third of the 85 they have scored this season, and their 28 goals at 5-on-4 are second in the NHL to the Detroit Red Wings (32).
Here are the projected lineups:
Scott Hartnell - Ryan Johansen - Jeremy Morin
Matt Calvert - Brandon Dubinsky - Corey Tropp
Nick Foligno - Alexander Wennberg - Jack Skille
Sean Collins - Michael Chaput - Jared Boll
Jack Johnson - David Savard
Kevin Connauton - James Wisniewski
Fedor Tyutin - Dalton Prout
Scratched: Jordan Leopold, Cody Goloubef, Adam Cracknell
Injured: Nathan Horton (back), Ryan Murray (knee), Mark Letestu (groin), Artem Anisimov (torn triceps), Brian Gibbons (knee), Boone Jenner (back), Cam Atkinson (shoulder)
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Martin Erat - Martin Hanzal - Sam Gagner
Tobias Rieder - Kyle Chipchura - David Moss
Brandon McMillan - Joe Vitale - Lauri Korpikoski
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek
Keith Yandle - Michael Stone
Brandon Gormley Connor Murphy
Scratched: B.J. Crombeen, Chris Summers
Status report: Defenseman David Schlemko was claimed off waivers by the Dallas Stars on Saturday and left the Coyotes morning skate to catch a flight to Texas. … The Coyotes will have Vitale back in the lineup after he missed two games because of a lower-body injury. Tyler Gaudet, who replaced Vitale in the lineup, was sent back to the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League. Summers (upper body) has also been cleared to play, but won't be in the lineup. … Collins will take Cracknell's place in the Blue Jackets lineup.
Who's hot: Ekman-Larsson had six goals in December, the most in a month for a defenseman since the franchise moved to Arizona in 1996. Five of Ekman-Larsson's nine goals this season are game-winners. … Johansen has a point in five straight games (1-4-5) and six assists in the past nine games. … Connauton has back-to-back multipoint games and has seven points in the past five games.