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AP: ap_150c8ef8d460690b4f0f6a706700fe6d
Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith makes a save during the second period of the NHL hockey game against the New York Rangers, Monday, March 24, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Trying to fight your way into the playoffs without your number one goaltender is not an enviable task, but that's exactly what the Phoenix Coyotes have had to do.

Mike Smith suffered a lower body injury in a 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on March 24, forcing the 'Yotes to turn to backup Thomas Greiss.

In eight starts since Smith went down, Greiss has allowed more than two goals just twice, yet the Coyotes are 2-6 over that stretch, scoring just 13 goals in those eight games.

So even if Greiss isn't the issue, the Coyotes would surely prefer to have their top netminder back between the pipes, and that seems to be getting closer to happening.

But is it as simple as saying as soon as Smith is cleared to play, he will? He has missed the last eight games, after all.

"If he has full practices and was chomping at the bit to get in there and said he was fully functional, I wouldn't have a problem with it," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told the Dan Bickley Show with Vince Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday. "But that's not where we're at right now."

The Coyotes have two regular season games left -- vs. San Jose Saturday and Dallas Sunday -- and are currently two points back of the Stars for the final Wild Card spot.

And the Coyotes, losers of six straight, really can't afford any slipups over the weekend.

It sure would be nice to be at full strength, though.

"He's going to skate again today and we'll see where it gets to," Tippett said. "He skated yesterday. I would say after the skate yesterday, just his function, it would be hard to throw him in right now."

Adam Green, Web Content Editor - ArizonaSports.com

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