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Coyotes coach: Mike Smith showed improvement against Oilers

LISTEN: Dave Tippett, Coyotes head coach

It’s very difficult to argue with numbers, and so far the numbers say Arizona Coyotes goalie Mike Smith has had a rough start to the season.

Smith has allowed 10 goals in two games so far this season, and ranks 49th in the NHL with a .815 save percentage. Smith earned a victory in the net on Wednesday when he stopped 23 shots, but still surrendered four goals in Arizona’s 7-4 victory over the Edmonton Oilers.

Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett was a guest Thursday with Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, and he spoke about Smith’s start and a chance for improvement as the season continues.

“I thought he took steps forward last night. He still wants to continue to improve, but there was a step forward last night,” said Tippett. “The strides in the right direction, and he’ll continue to work this week and hopefully get in a groove an get his game where he’d like to see it.”

Smith and the entire Coyotes defense struggled with Edmonton to start the game, surrendering two goals on 12 shots in the first period. Tippett cited this early shot total as a possible reason why Smith may have struggled to get into an early defensive rhythm.

“Last night we gave him probably more opportunities than I would have liked to see in the first period, but he hung in there and was an improvement over Game 1,” said Tippett.

The Coyotes earned their first win of the season on Saturday with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings, although Smith did not play in the game.

Puck control and preventing unnecessary mistakes may be another way to cut down on the high goals-against totals, according to Tippett, and he said this is something they excelled at in Saturday’s game, opposed to the win on Wednesday.

“We were trying to play another game like we played against L.A. and be real strong in a lot of areas and I didn’t think we managed the puck very well,” said Tippett. “Too many turnovers that led to chances and goals against, so some areas that I just thought the game was sloppy.”

Arizona’s next game is Saturday at 6 p.m., when the Coyotes host the St. Louis Blues, and will be on ESPN Phoenix 620.