Through 30 games, the Arizona Coyotes sit in third place, 10 points out of the Pacific Division lead.
But if the Coyotes are going to mount a comeback to catch the first place Los Angeles Kings, they are going to have to do it without their No. 1 goalie, Mike Smith, who is expected to miss the next eight to 10 weeks after undergoing core muscle surgery Tuesday.
Coyotes general manager Don Maloney told Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Doug and Wolf that Smith is expected to be back in the Valley Thursday where he hopes for him to have a speedy recovery.
“It was something that he needed to get repaired,” Maloney said. “Mike is a terrific athlete, in terrific shape and there’s no question in my mind that we will get him back and he will be better than new.”
In the meantime Anders Lindback and Louis Domingue, who was recently called up from Springfield of the American Hockey League, will be looked upon to fill the void left by Smith.
“When an injury occurs, it’s an opportunity for somebody else,” Maloney said. “Now it’s up to those two to see if they can get the job done for us.”
With a quarter of the season already in the books, the Coyotes’ success has been due in large part to the play of rookies Max Domi and Anthony Duclair.
However, recently Domi and Duclair have struggled, which Maloney said is something that is not uncommon for young players. Their slump is why he is looking to veterans Mikkell Boedker and Antonie Vermiette to start taking the lead in the next few weeks.
“Once you get through that 15 to 20 game mark, then the reality of playing as a pro and playing against men and playing day in and day out sets in. So as a 20 year old, they hit a wall,” Maloney said. “Having a couple of 20 year olds driving your offense is not ideal. I really do believe that after the 20 to 25 game mark, that’s when your veterans have to start chipping in on a consistent basis.”
The success of Domi and Duclair and the improvements of Boedker, who Maloney said has really come around of late, are some of the reasons for the Coyotes’ turnaround from last year in which they finished two points ahead of Buffalo for the worst record in the NHL.
Another reason is their play at home.
Last year, the Coyotes finished the year 11-25-5 however, this season Arizona is 7-4-1 and is in the midst of a six-game homestand. Thirteen of the team’s next 19 games are at Gila River Arena.
“We have a hungry Columbus team coming here (Thursday night), the Islanders are here on Saturday and they are one of the best teams in the league this year, so we have our work cut out for us,” Maloney said. “The good thing is we are playing well at home. If we can win more than we lose at home, then we will certainly stay around the playoff pack.”
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