GLENDALE, Ariz. -- With starter Mike Smith still searching to find his form, the Phoenix Coyotes will go with backup Thomas Greiss in goal when they open a crucial five-game homestand against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.
Smith played in all three games of a 1-1-1 Western Canada road trip and had his struggles in a wild 5-4 overtime loss Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks.
The Coyotes have allowed 156 non-shootout goals in 52 games this season (3.00 per game). Only the Nashville Predators, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers have allowed more in the Western Conference.
Greiss hasn't played since Jan. 11 when he allowed four goals on 23 shots and was lifted in the second period of a 5-3 home loss against the Anaheim Ducks. In 12 games he is 6-3-1 with a 2.21 goals-against average, .929 save percentage and one shutout, which he recorded Jan. 7 against the Calgary Flames.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett wanted to give Smith a break to work with goalie coach Sean Burke after playing eight straight games. But it also was a reward for Greiss.
"[Greiss] has been practicing really well," Tippett said. "Hopefully he comes in and gives us a big game."
The Coyotes also will make a change on defense with rookie Connor Murphy, recalled Monday from the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League, skating with David Schlemko as the third pairing Tuesday morning. Michael Stone, who has one goal in his past 29 games and continues to struggle defensively (minus-12), could be scratched for the second time since Oct. 24.
Trailing the Minnesota Wild by four points and Vancouver by five for the two wild-card spots for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference, the Coyotes know these games before the Olympic break are important for a team that has limped through a 4-8-1 January.
"If you look at how this season has gone and our situation in the standings, the teams that are coming up, including L.A. and the ones coming up before the break … it's easy to decipher this is a critical stage of the schedule," Tippett said.
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick has allowed two goals or fewer in six of his past seven starts, including a 1-0 road win against the San Jose Sharks on Monday. He will start against the Coyotes.
The Kings have been unable to capitalize on Quick's efforts as they have scored two goals in the past three games and snapped an 0-4-1 slide with the win against the Sharks.
Here is how the Kings and Coyotes lineups could look Tuesday:
Dwight King - Anze Kopitar - Jeff Carter
Dustin Brown - Mike Richards - Justin Williams
Matt Frattin - Jarret Stoll - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Jordan Nolan
Jake Muzzin - Drew Doughty
Slava Voynov - Robyn Regehr
Willie Mitchell - Matt Greene
Scratched: Jeff Schultz, Tyler Toffoli
Injured: Alec Martinez (elbow)
Lauri Korpikoski - Antoine Vermette - Mikkel Boedker
Shane Doan - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Rob Klinkhammer - Mike Ribeiro - David Moss
Paul Bissonnette - Kyle Chipchura - Jeff Halpern
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Zbynek Michalek
Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
David Schlemko - Connor Murphy
Scratched: David Rundblad, Michael Stone, Tim Kennedy