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Coyotes’ Smith close to getting back on the ice

Phoenix Coyotes backup goalies Jason LaBarbera and Chad Johnson have played well during starting goalie Mike Smith’s absence. Now, Smith is ready to re-claim his spot as the the starter.

Since Smith was placed on the injured reserve list March 26 with an upper body injury, the Coyotes’ backup duo has helped its team to a 3-2 record.

LaBarbera played the first four out of five until coming down with the flu Thursday, which slated Johnson as the starter against the Detroit red Wings.

On the night, Johnson allowed two goals on 36 attempts by Detroit, en route to a 4-2 victory for Phoenix.

“Both Barbs and Johnny have done a fantastic job,” Smith said. “Barbs just came in and forgot he hadn’t played a lot.

“He’s given the team a chance to win every game, that’s all you can ask for out of him and Johnny’s done the same thing when he’s been in.”

With 11 games left in the season, the ‘Yotes stand two points out of playoff contention. Smith is eager to help contribute again as his team makes a late-season push.

“It’s obviously a frustrating time to be out of the lineup,” he said. “This is the time of the year that you want to be a part of games, you want to help the team win and help the team get into the playoffs.”

With it being only a matter of time before goalie is back at the net, maintaining his strength and agility is paramount.

“Everyday on the ice I feel a little bit better,” he said. “That’s the plan, is to keep improving, feeling better on the ice, keep doing my workouts off the ice.”

As much as he wants to keep playing and dislikes his present situation, Smith said he is glad his team has been able to stay close in the hunt for a post-season spot.

“I don’t like to be on the sidelines, I like to be in the midst of games, helping the team,” he said. “We feel that if we put some wins together going down the stretch, we have a good chance of getting back in the playoffs.

“We have to keep giving it all we’ve got and, hopefully, squeak in.”