The Phoenix Coyotes lost its backbone and still knocked off the Columbus Blue Jackets, 5-1. Coyotes’ goaltender Mike Smith left the game early in the first period and his teammates rallied around his backup, Jason LaBarbera, to secure the victory. Smith is considered day-day with a lower body injury.
“Lower body. Day-to-day. Not sure where he'll be tomorrow, so we'll have a call-up," Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett said in a recent release. "The trainers came to me after warmup and said Smitty is a little tight, you might want to keep an eye on him. And 'a little tight' turned into 'can't play.'"
Last season Smith went 38-18-10 with a 2.21 GAA. In three-games this season he has surrendered 10-goals. In Smith’s absence, LaBarbera stopped 21 of 22-shots to get the win. Last season he went 3-9 in 19-games and had a .912 save percentage with a 2.54 GAA.
LaBarbera anchored the defense in Smith’s absence and recently acquired Steven Sullivan tallied his eighth career hat trick to improve the Coyotes’ record to 1-2. Sullivan was signed as a free agent this past off-season. A veteran of 15 NHL seasons, he has also played for the New Jersey Devils, who originally drafted him in the ninth round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Chicago Blackhawks, the Nashville Predators and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"You're brought in for a certain reason and you don't want to disappoint,” Sullivan said after the game in a recent release. “If you look at this team as I watched them in the playoffs last year, everyone has a set role and everyone knows what they have to do to be successful. When they do those things well they win games.”
Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored a pair of goals and dished out an assist. Antoine Vermette came through with a pair of assists to help the winning cause.
The Coyotes won't get any rest or reprieve as they head straight to San Jose to take on the Sharks tonight. LaBarbera will start in the cage for the visiting ‘Yotes and the puck is scheduled to drop at 8:00 p.m. (MST)