Mike Smith has been a different goalie of late.
A better goalie.
After struggling (by his standards) for much of the season, the Phoenix Coyotes' netminder has come back from the Olympic break playing some of his best hockey of the season.
In 10 games since he got back from Sochi, Smith has allowed 22 goals (2.18 per game) while saving 92.5 percent of the shots he's faced. Both of those are improvements over his season stats of 2.67 goals against and a save percentage of 91.5.
Not surprisingly, the Coyotes have earned wins in six of those games, and in part because of Smith's efforts are now very much back in the playoff picture.
But even with as important as he is to the team coming down the stretch, Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told the Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday that the 32-year-old will get some time off soon.
"He's the one that's dictating that right now; he wants to be in there every game," the coach said of Smith's ice time. "We'll probably in that road trip next week we have a back-to-back, we'll probably give him one of those games off."
The Coyotes, who last played Monday in a 4-3 win over the L.A. Kings, will not take the ice again until Thursday when they host the Florida Panthers. They'll have a home date against the Boston Bruins the following Saturday before hitting the road for three straight against the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and New Jersey Devils. The games in New York and Pittsburgh are on consecutive nights, giving the coach a good opportunity to rest his top goalie.
However, the coach admitted it doesn't even look like Smith needs the break.
"He came back from the Olympics, he was refreshed," he said. "He knows this time of the season. It's funny, you look at his play the last couple years, late in the year it's been the best part of his season.
"I think he recognizes that in his own mind and he wants to be in the net, he wants to be the guy that gives us the best chance to win."