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Smith's return sparked postseason hope for Coyotes

by Aaron Vickers

CALGARY -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs hope for the Phoenix Coyotes could rest on the broad shoulders of Mike Smith.

The 6-foot-4 goaltender has stopped 93 of 95 shots since returning to the lineup against the Colorado Avalanche on April 6 after missing six games with an upper-body injury. He's earned four of a possible six points for a Coyotes club that enters action against the Calgary Flames on Friday night trailing the Detroit Red Wings by two points for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference.

According to coach Dave Tippett, Smith has been the injection the Coyotes needed as they try to close in on the Red Wings.

"We needed a guy that's going to take the ball and run with it," Tippett said. "We had a good week at home where we used three different goaltenders and got three wins, but ultimately if we're going to have a chance to be a playoff team, Smitty has to take that ball and run with it."

The second-year Coyotes keeper is tied for the League lead in shutouts with five and is 13-11-3 this season with a 2.59 goals-against average and .910 save percentage.

"Smitty's a real focused guy right now," Tippett said. "He knows he has to be a very good player for us to be a good team. He's willing to take that responsibility. That's all you can ask for your No. 1 guy. Players in that dressing room look and he's as focused as he is, that's a message that he's sending that he's ready to play that the rest of us better be ready to play."

Tippett is expected to rely on the same lineup -- Smith included -- that was victorious Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers against the Flames.

"We've got a couple guys to monitor coming off the ice who didn't skate yesterday but we're hoping to come back with the same lineup or a similar lineup," Tippett said.

That means Lauri Korpikoski will not suit up for Phoenix. The 26-year-old remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury, meaning the Coyotes are expected to go with a non-traditional 11 forwards, seven defensemen configuration.

Here are the projected lineups when the Coyotes take on the Flames on Friday at Scotiabank Saddledome:


Alex Tanguay - Mikael Backlund - Lee Stempniak

Curtis Glencross - Maxwell Reinhart - Jiri Hudler

Mike Cammalleri - Roman Horak - Sven Baertschi

Tim Jackman - Steve Begin - Roman Cervenka

Dennis Wideman - Mark Giordano

TJ Brodie - Cory Sarich

Chris Butler - Brett Carson

Joey MacDonald

Miikka Kiprusoff

Scratched: Anton Babchuk

Injured: Paul Byron (wrist), Brian McGrattan (shoulder), Matt Stajan (upper body)


Radim Vrbata - Martin Hanzal - Shane Doan

Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Chris Conner

David Moss - Boyd Gordon - Rob Klinkhammer

Chris Brown - Kyle Chipchura

Zbynek Michalek - Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris

David Schlemko - Michael Stone

Rostislav Klesla

Mike Smith

Jason Labarbera

Scratched: Paul Bissionnette, Alexandre Bolduc

Injured: Lauri Korpikoski (upper body)

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