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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Tuesday, March 25th (All times Eastern)
Phoenix Coyotes (34-26-12) at Pittsburgh Penguins (46-20-5), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Phoenix Coyotes will try to get by without No. 1 goaltender Mike Smith on Tuesday night, as the playoff-hopeful club visits the Pittsburgh Penguins for a battle at CONSOL Energy Center.
Smith was injured late in the third period of Monday's 4-3 overtime loss against the New York Rangers. Phoenix was ahead 3-2 with just under eight minutes left in regulation when Rangers forward Derick Brassard fell on top of Smith, resulting in a lower-body injury for the Coyotes goaltender.
Appearing in his NHL-leading 62nd game for a team battling for a playoff spot, Smith smacked his blocker against the inside of the net and threw his hands over his face in obvious pain. He needed help to skate off the ice. The Coyotes have not offered any word as of yet on the severity of the injury.
"It was a tough situation. I would like to see us be a little tougher in front of him, but it is what it is," said Phoenix coach Dave Tippett.
Thomas Greiss replaced Smith in net and yielded two goals on nine shots, as the Coyotes lost the road test in overtime. Dan Girardi tied it for the Rangers with 3:28 left in the third and Ryan McDonagh scored on a rebound to win at 1:56 of OT.
Smith had been playing some of his best hockey of the season in recent weeks. The 32-year-old workhorse was 7-3-0 over his last 10 decisions and hadn't allowed more than three goals in any tilt during that stretch. He stopped 25- of-27 shots before exiting Monday's game at Madison Square Garden.
If Smith has to miss significant time for Phoenix it could mean the difference between the club making the playoffs or watching it from home. The Coyotes are clinging to the eighth seed in the West, sitting just one point in front of Dallas for the second of the conference's two wild card spots.
The Stars won Monday against visiting Winnipeg and they play on the road tonight in Chicago. Dallas holds a game in hand over the Coyotes.
Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jeff Halpern and Kyle Chipchura scored Monday for the Coyotes, who have lost two in a row for the first time since a four-game slide that spanned the Olympic break.
With Phoenix playing on consecutive nights, Greiss was already scheduled to start Tuesday's game. Depending on the severity of Smith's injury, he could get the call again on Thursday when the Coyotes cap a three-game road trip.
Smith is 27-21-10 with a 2.64 goals against average and .915 save percentage this season. Greiss is 7-5-2 with a 2.38 GAA in 16 games.
The Penguins, meanwhile, hope they can take advantage of Phoenix's backup goaltender on Tuesday after being shut out for the second time in six games their last time out.
The Metropolitan Division-leading Penguins have the fifth-ranked offense in the NHL this season, averaging 3.06 goals per game, but Pittsburgh has failed to score a goal twice over its last six outings.
The Pens, who hold a comfortable 13-point lead atop the Metropolitan Division, have lost four of their last six games. The 2-3-1 stretch began with a 4-0 loss in Philadelphia on March 15 and Pittsburgh is coming off Sunday's 1-0 setback against visiting St. Louis.
Pittsburgh couldn't solve Blues goaltender Brian Elliott on Sunday, but it wasn't for a lack of shots. Elliott made 33 saves for St. Louis, as the Pens registered at least 10 shots on goal in each period. Pittsburgh also failed to convert on five power-play chances.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves for the Penguins, who were blanked on home ice for the first time since another 1-0 result against Colorado on Oct. 21.
"We had the right mentality," noted Pittsburgh defenseman Matt Niskanen. "We knew how they were going to play. We were ready for it. I thought we did a pretty good job of doing what we wanted to. That's how it's going to be in the postseason. Things are going to be tight and I thought we did a pretty good job today except for finding a goal."
Pittsburgh is playing the third part of a four-game homestand that will end Thursday against Los Angeles. The Penguins are 26-6-2 at CONSOL this season.
The Coyotes recorded a 3-1 win over Pittsburgh when the clubs met in Arizona on Feb. 1. Smith stopped 23-of-24 shots for Phoenix in the win.
Greiss has faced Pittsburgh only once in his career, recording a win for San Jose on Nov. 3, 2011. He stopped 29-of-30 shots in that victory.
Pittsburgh had won three straight in this series before the February loss in Glendale. The Coyotes have lost two straight and three of their last four games in the Steel City.
03/25 10:54:54 ET
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