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AP: 6c698108-49c4-4f40-8c37-a3d8f15c4c9a
Phoenix Coyotes' Mike Smith (41) makes a save on a shot by Vancouver Canucks' Chris Higgins (20) as Coyotes' Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23), of Sweden, defends during the first period of an NHL hockey game on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
When Mike Smith first joined the Phoenix Coyotes, he took the NHL by surprise and performed like an elite goaltender in leading the team to the Western Conference Finals.

He wasn't quite as sharp last season, posting a 15-12-5 record with a 2.58 GAA as the Coyotes just missed the posteason in the lockout-shortened campaign.

This season has not been too good at all for Smith, who signed a six-year contract that averages $5.67 million per year and is carrying a 16-13-8 record to go along with a 2.85 GAA. If the season finished today, it would be the third-highest GAA of his career.

It's not all on Smith, as the team's defense has struggled and forced him to face more shot attempts than anyone in the NHL, but the fact remains that the 31-year-old has had his struggles.

Thursday against the Vancouver Canucks, though, he stopped all 29 shots he faced and led the Coyotes to a 1-0 shutout win. Friday, he stopped 32 shots as Phoenix held off a late New Jersey Devils rally for a 3-2 win.

The difference?

After Thursday's game, Smith said he tried to think less and just enjoy the game.

A guest of Bickley with Marotta Friday, Smith's coach Dave Tippett said that has helped.

"He's a guy that he cares a lot and he thinks a lot, and I think sometimes he does overthink the game rather than just get in there and play it," he said. "He's an unbelievable athlete and an unbelievable player if he just gets in and lets his talents take over and not think too much about it, usually things will come out ahead."

Tippett added that Smith looked better in Tuesday's loss to the St. Louis Blues, in which he allowed just two goals on 18 shots.

"Hopefully that's a good sign of things to come for him," Tippett said.

Adam Green, Web Content Editor - ArizonaSports.com

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