CHICAGO – Phoenix goalie Mike Smith missed practice before the Coyotes took off for Chicago and his status for Game 3 in the rugged and physical opening-round playoff series was unclear Monday.
Smith was peppered with 95 shots in the first two games, turning away 89 of them. Chicago scored in the waning seconds of each game, forced overtime twice and earned a split. Smith was also knocked to the ice in Game 2 after a collision with Chicago rookie Andrew Shaw behind the net. After several groggy minutes, he stayed in the game.
Hard to image Smith not in goal for the Coyotes on Tuesday night in Chicago.
“He’s been tough to get pucks past,” Blackhawks defenceman Brent Seabrook said. “We’re putting a lot of pucks on Smith, he’s a great goaltender.”
It was Seabrook whose last-second shots forced both overtimes and kept Chicago from falling into an 0-2 hole. He scored with 14.2 seconds left in Game 1 to tie it up before Phoenix prevailed in overtime. And his hard shot in a frantic closing sequence of Game 2 was re-directed past Smith by Patrick Sharp with 5.5 seconds to go and Blackhawks went on to win in the extra period.
“I’m trying to shoot it as hard as I can and get in some lanes, try and find some seams, and get some bounces and rebounds,” Seabrook said.. “You’re not really worried about giving up anything. For us defencemen, we’re like forwards on the back end, we’re trying to help out and get pucks to the net and trying to score, that’s our main focus.”
Shaw was the first Blackhawks skater on the ice for Monday’s practice. He was scheduled for a hearing with the league about his collision with Smith, one he reiterated was unintentional and unavoidable. His shoulder caught the Coyotes’ goaltender on the head.
“If you look, my eyes were focused on the puck, and I was leaning forward to get to the puck. When he turned to fire it my way, I kind of panicked—I didn’t want to get hit in the face,” Shaw said.
” So I kind of turned my body, and at the last second his head came out, and I tried turning my shoulder away, but I had nowhere to go. I was right against the boards, and unfortunately the collision happened.”
In addition to Smith, centre Martin Hanzal and left wing Lauri Korpikoski did not practice for the Coyotes on Monday. Phoenix coach Dave Tippett would not say if any of the three would be available for Game 3.
Hanzal went off in the first period with what appeared to be a lower-body injury and Korpikoski left in the third after being checked hard into the boards.
The Coyotes are convinced they can put Game 2’s disappointing loss behind them and rebound at the United Center, where they won twice during the regular season.
“We feel good about ourselves. We obviously let that one slip away last game, but we just want to get back out there and play and redeem ourselves,’ said Coyotes’ defenceman Keith Yandle.
It’s no surprise the series is getting increasingly chippy. The Coyotes had a 48-22 advantage in hits during the opener and led 40-34 in Game 2. Doan and Blackhawks defencemen Niklas Hjalmarsson exchanged thunderous checks in Game 2.
“I’m sure it’s just going to get more and more (physical),” captain Shane Doan said. “As a series goes along, you start to get little personal battles going on where you make sure you want to win those. It’s starting to get personal.”
Asked if would be a target when he plays again, Shaw said he wasn’t sure.
“Yay and nay. They’re going to go out there and play their game, but obviously if they’ve got a chance to hit me, they’re going to probably hit me,” he said.
AP Sports Writer John Marshall in Glendale, Ariz., contributed to this report.