Mike Smith’s strong finish to the past season had the Arizona Coyotes hoping their veteran starting netminder would have a stellar season in 2016-17. Unfortunately for Smith, though, yet another injury may derail his campaign before he even gets rolling.
Smith, 34, was forced out of Tuesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators during the third period with what the Coyotes are only calling a lower-body injury at this point. As Smith scrambled around the crease in the third, his left leg got caught under his own body as he attempted to push back to his right in the crease.
Smith immediately collapsed to the ice, flipped off his glove and was grabbing at his left leg as the referee signalled for help from the Coyotes bench. Smith was eventually helped off the ice and didn’t appear to be putting pressure on his left leg:
Following the game, Arizona coach Dave Tippett said it was too early to know exactly what was ailing Smith and said the netminder would be re-evaluated when the team arrived in Montreal ahead of Thursday’s meeting with the Canadiens.
Tippett said the injury “could be a short-term thing,” according to AZCentral’s Sarah McLellan, and that has to be the Coyotes’ hope considering how often Smith has had to battle injury over the past few seasons. Since the start of the 2012-13 campaign, Smith has missed 67 games due to lower-body injuries, including a brutal 40-game absence during the 2015-16 campaign due to a core muscle injury.
If Smith can’t play for the foreseeable future, the reins will be handed to Louis Domingue, who made an impression on the Coyotes and the rest of the league last season as a rookie.
Domingue, 24, signed a two-year extension with Arizona in the off-season, and the sophomore netminder was expected to shoulder at least a part-time load for the Coyotes this coming campaign. In 39 games during the 2015-16 season, Domingue posted a 15-18-5 record with a 2.75 goals-against average and .912 save percentage.
That said, Domingue didn’t fare all too well in his season debut in relief of Smith. However, he was thrown into the fire. The first shot he faced was a point-blank attempt by Chris Kelly, which beat Domingue, and he finished out the game by allowing three goals on 11 shots in 11 minutes of action.
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