Red-hot Smith carrying Phoenix’s playoff hopes

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The Phoenix Coyotes have won four of their last five and, as a result, moved to within two points of eighth in the Western Conference.

And a big part of that has been the play of Mike Smith.

The ‘Yotes netminder has been outstanding since returning from injury on Apr. 6, stopping 93 of the last 95 shots he’s faced.

“Smitty’s a real focused guy right now,” Phoenix head coach Dave Tippett told NHL.com. “He knows he has to be a very good player for us to be a good team. He’s willing to take that responsibility. That’s all you can ask for your No. 1 guy.”

In the last week, Smith recorded a shutout win over Colorado and allowed just one goal in a victory over Edmonton.

And even when he lost, he still played out of his mind.

In a 2-0 defeat to Vancouver on Monday, Smith made 40 saves as his Coyotes were badly outplayed (and out-shot, 41-18). He drew major praise from Canucks captain Henrik Sedin.

“We thought they were going to be ready, so we got a lot of pucks to the net,” Sedin explained. “But Mike, he’s a great goalie. He’s big and he’s great playing the puck, so it’s tough getting to him.”

This latest run has bumped Smith’s overall numbers on the year to 13-11-3, with a .910 save percentage and 2.59 GAA. He’s also tied for the league lead in shutouts, with five.

All of this makes one wonder what he’ll get on the open market, assuming he gets there. Smith’s in the final season of a modest two-year, $4 million deal and should get a significant raise.

But will it be in Phoenix?

Tippett is on record saying Smith’s influence over the team is impressive. You’d have to think he wants his No. 1 goalie to stay.

“Players in that dressing room look [at Smith] and he’s as focused as he is,” Tippett explained. “That’s a message that he’s sending that he’s ready to play, that the rest of us better be ready to play.”