When Mike Smith wasn’t able to play Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver, 27-year-old Thomas Greiss got the nod at goaltender for a Phoenix Coyotes team in dire need of win.
The Coyotes came in having lost two in a row — and seven out of their last 10 — but Greiss stopped 29 out of 30 shots on goal, and his team emerged with a 3-1 victory.
Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said Wednesday on The Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta that even though Smith was out of commission, goaltender wasn’t a position he was was worried about against Colorado.
“The one thing that Greiss has done for us is that he’s earned the confidence of his teammates,” Tippett said. “They trust him going in there. There was not even one question that he was going to jump in there and play well last night. And when he comes in and plays like he does, it’s a real good thing for our club.
“Goalies have to earn that trust in their teammates and how the teammates will play accordingly in front of them, and Greiss has done that for our group.”
Tippett added that even though it was only Greiss’s fifth start of the year — and his eight overall appearance — the backup goalie is expected to come in and perform well for the club.
“That’s part of his role on our team,” the head coach said of Greiss, who spent his first four season with the San Jose Sharks. “He recognizes his job. He’s got to jump in there in some tough circumstances — whether it be midway through a game or in a situation just like last night.”
Phoenix had fallen out of a playoff seed with its struggles, and Tippett said every game against a conference foe is crucial in the Coyotes’ playoff quest. The fifth-year Coyotes coach emphasized how important the Colorado game was for team morale.
“Yesterday was the first day we got up and we’re bumped out of the playoff position, so it didn’t matter who going to play. We knew we had to play a real competitive game,” Tippett said. “Sometimes that instability can make your group wonder how things are going to go, but I like the way our group — right from the morning skate, when they found out that (Smith) wasn’t going to play — they were very determined, and jumped out and we played accordingly.
“We played a real strong road game and had a lot of players play very well, which is what we need right now.”
The win in Denver put the Coyotes one point behind the Avalanche in the wild card standings in the Western Conference. Besides Smith, who suffered from what Tippett called a “24-hour flu,” the Coyotes were missing captain Shane Doan with an illness. The Coyotes coach said the two cases were not related.
“Doaner is a little more serious case. We’re going to continue to monitor him. I think it’s going to be a few more days before we even get close to getting him back.”
Tippett added that he expects Smith back in practice Wednesday.