Mike Smith

Coyotes say Smith won’t need MCL surgery

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After missing the playoffs for the second straight season, Phoenix was finally able to give a clearer explanation as to what injury befell starting netminder Mike Smith — he suffered an MCL sprain on Mar. 24 against the Rangers.

“I know we were somewhat cryptic about it publicly,” GM Don Maloney said, per the Arizona Republic. “We just didn’t want it to be a distraction for Thomas Greiss and the team. We had to move past it.

“We knew internally he was not going to be able to help us get to the playoffs, so we said, ‘Let’s leave it on the sidelines. Let’s focus on Thomas and our team and get to the playoffs, and maybe Mike will be back in the playoffs,’ and that was far from certain.”

Maloney then added surgery to repair the ligament wasn’t necessary, and that the club had “no qualms whatsoever about a long-term problem with it.”

The injury was a thud ending to an otherwise good season. Smith captured gold as a member of Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics and, upon his return, put together a stellar run of play, going 7-4-1 in March with a .924 save percentage while allowing three goals or less in 11 of his 12 starts.

Smith finished the season 27-21-10 with a 2.64 GAA and .915 save percentage, pretty solid numbers in the first of his six-year, $34 million extension (signed last July). The Coyotes are no doubt pleased his knee injury is minor and won’t require going under the knife, as the club’s late-season swoon with Greiss in goal only furthered the notion that Smith is the team’s most important player.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.

Canucks say Markstrom (hamstring) out another week — could it be longer?

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Bit of uncertainty out of Vancouver regarding the health of backup goalie Jacob Markstrom.

Markstrom, a late drop from the Canucks’ 5-1 opening-night win over Calgary, has suffered a hamstring injury that will keep him sidelined for another week, the club announced on Thursday.

With Markstrom out, backup duties will stay with AHL call-up Richard Bachman, who served as Ryan Miller‘s No. 2 on Wednesday.

Now, the focus turns to how long Bachman keeps those duties.

Per a Sportsnet report, Markstrom could miss up to three weeks of action with his injury. If that’s the case, Bachman will almost certainly be called into action; the Canucks will play eight games in 17 nights starting with Saturday’s home-opener against the Flames, which includes back-to-backs in Los Angeles and Anaheim on Oct. 12 and 13.

It would be asking a lot of the No. 1, 35-year-old Ryan Miller, to shoulder that entire load.

Bachman does have some NHL experience, with nearly 50 games to his credit. That includes a 3-2-0 record with the Oilers last year, in which he posted a 2.84 GAA and .911 save percentage.