Coyotes visit well-rested Avs
(Sports Network) - Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith has struggled at times this season, but you wouldn't have known it based on his last performance.
Smith will try to lead the Coyotes to a second straight victory on Monday evening in a matchup with a Colorado Avalanche team that has had some issues with scoring goals.
The 30-year-old Smith enjoyed an excellent first season with Phoenix in 2011-12, winning 38 games while posting eight shutouts. However, he is off to a bit of a slow start this season while also missing time with a groin issue.
Smith went into Saturday's road contest with San Jose 2-3-1 with a 3.43 goals against average and .863 save percentage in seven games, but was flawless in a 1-0 shootout win over the Sharks. He made 33 saves through overtime and stopped both skaters he faced in the shootout to log his second shutout of the season and 21st of his career.
"I haven't played my best hockey as of this year so far and this was a great test for me to just kind of not worry about everything else," said Smith. "Just kind of come into this building knowing that they play well in here and they're a highly-skilled team that seem to get better and better the longer the game goes on."
While Smith turned away San Jose's Michal Handzus and James Sheppard in the breakaway session, both Mikkel Boedker and Radim Vrbata scored after Phoenix was held without a goal on 21 shots over 65 minutes.
Still, the Coyotes won for the third time in their past four games and picked up their first road victory of the season (1-2-1).
"We came into the game having not won on the road in three tries and we had to be a very determined team to try to win tonight," said Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett. "(Smith) was excellent in goal and we got some good efforts in front of him. We found a way to get two points."
Tippett's club will now square off with an Avalanche team that is tied for 25th in the NHL with 2.10 goals per game but is well-rested, having not played since last Wednesday's 3-0 setback to the Anaheim Ducks.
Semyon Varlamov gave up the three goals on 20 shots as the Avs lost for the fifth time in seven games. They have been shut out three times over that span.
"They locked us into the zone and in the second period we just couldn't seem to clear the puck," said Colorado forward Milan Hejduk. "They didn't seem to have too many chances, but they made the most of them. We didn't create anything tonight."
Colorado will shoot for a split of its four-game homestand, but will be minus defenseman Matt Hunwick due to a torso injury. He joins the likes of captain Gabriel Landeskog (head/neck), Ryan Wilson (leg) and Steve Downie (right knee surgery) on the sidelines. Also, young center Ryan O'Reilly remains unsigned as a restricted free agent.
The Coyotes have won eight of their past 10 meetings with the Avalanche as well as three of their past four in Colorado.
02/11 11:05:44 ET