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Resurgence of Smith big question for Coyotes

by David Satriano /

Since reaching the Western Conference Final in 2012, the Arizona Coyotes have not made the Stanley Cup Playoffs and bottomed out last season with the second-worst record in the NHL.

But general manager Don Maloney believes a return to better days is not far away.

Here are three questions that could bring them back sooner rather than later:

Will Mike Smith regain his old form? Smith had 14 wins in 62 games last season (14-42-5), his lowest save percentage (.904) in four seasons with Arizona, and his highest goals-against average (3.16) of his career. Smith was 38-18-10 with a .930 save percentage and a 2.21 GAA when the Coyotes made the Western Conference Final. Despite his struggles, coach Dave Tippet said numerous times last season Smith will remain the starter. But will newcomer Anders Lindback get a chance at the No. 1 job of Smith's difficulties continue?

Where will the offense come from? The Coyotes scored 165 goals (about two per game) last season, second fewest in the League. Their leading scorer was defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23 goals, 43 points), and their second-leading scorers were defenseman Keith Yandle, who had four goals and 41 points in 63 games before he was traded to the New York Rangers, and forward Sam Gagner (15 goals, 26 assists), now with the Philadelphia Flyers. Captain Shane Doan turns 39 one day after the season opener, and his best offensive days likely are behind him. Arizona signed forwards Antione Vermette (38 points last season, 35 with the Coyotes) and Steve Downie (28 points) to try to improve the offense.

Will prospects Max Domi and Anthony Duclair make the opening-night roster? Arizona has a boatload of prospects in its system, including forwards Max Domi and Anthony Duclair, who could make the NHL this season and see regular playing time.

They were impressive at development camp, and Maloney said he expects them to play a significant role at some point this season, whether it's from opening night or a few weeks or months later. Domi has scored more than 30 goals and 87 points in each of his past three seasons with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, and his production has increased in each of the past four seasons. He could start the season with Springfield, the Coyotes' new American Hockey League affiliate.

Duclair played 18 games with the Rangers last season (one goal, seven points), so he has NHL experience and should help the Coyotes' offense once he's in Arizona. In 26 games with the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Montreal Junior Hockey League, Duclair had 15 goals and 34 points.


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