NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, March 27th (All times Eastern)
Phoenix Coyotes (35-26-12) at New Jersey Devils (31-28-13), 7 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Phoenix Coyotes will try to win a second straight game without their No. 1 goaltender when they visit the New Jersey Devils for Thursday's inter-conference battle at Prudential Center.
The Coyotes lost workhorse Mike Smith to a lower-body injury in Monday's 4-3 overtime loss against the New York Rangers, but backup Thomas Greiss was able to anchor the team's 3-2 win in Pittsburgh the following night.
Although the severity of Smith's injury is still unknown, the club is describing his status as day-to-day. An update is expected after the Coyotes get back to Phoenix on Friday and Smith is checked by team doctors.
The injury to the starting goaltender comes at a bad time for Phoenix, which is holding onto the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. With 82 points, the Coyotes are three ahead of Dallas for the second of the West's two wild card spots. The Stars, who hold a game in hand over Phoenix, are idle on Thursday.
Smith left Monday's road tilt late in the third period with his club holding a 3-2 lead before New York scored twice on nine shots against Greiss.
However, Greiss came back a day later to record a 23-save victory against the Penguins. After yielding goals to Jussi Jokinen and Taylor Pyatt on 10 shots in the first period, the 28-year-old netminder stopped all 15 shots he faced the rest of the way.
"(Greiss) was phenomenal," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said of his netminder. "He kept the game calm. We're fortunate to have him coming in to back up another really good goalie."
Mikkel Boedker netted the deciding score late in the second period for Phoenix. David Moss and Antoine Vermette tallied in the first period and Doan added two assists for the Coyotes, who halted a two-game skid and won for the sixth time in their last nine outings.
Mark Visentin was recalled from the Portland Pirates of the AHL to serve as Greiss' backup in Smith's absence.
Phoenix is capping a three-game road trip tonight and is 14-14-9 as the visiting club this season.
The Devils enter Thursday having won two of their last three games, but Peter DeBoer's team faces an uphill battle to make the playoffs.
The East currently has four teams with 80 points -- Columbus, Detroit, Toronto and Washington -- fighting over two wild card spots. New Jersey is five points behind that group with 10 games remaining on its regular-season schedule.
New Jersey was able to beat one of the teams above it in the playoff scramble, posting a 3-2 regulation win over the visiting Maple Leafs on Sunday. The Devils jumped out to a 3-0 lead by the early stages of the second period before holding on for the important victory.
Patrik Elias, Jon Merrill and Damien Brunner each scored for the Devils, while Cory Schneider earned the win with 21 saves.
"You knew they'd get a push back and get their chances, but we hung on there," Schneider said.
New Jersey halted a six-game slide in the series with Toronto, beating the Maple Leafs for the first time since Feb. 21, 2012.
The Devils, who are 18-10-7 as the host this season, have won two straight and seven of their last nine home games against Phoenix, but the Coyotes have held the upper hand in the overall series. New Jersey dropped a 3-2 regulation decision in the desert on Jan. 18, giving the Coyotes wins in two straight, three of four and six of the last eight meetings.
03/27 10:54:09 ET