Goalie nods: Smith makes first start for Coyotes in nearly a month

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The Coyotes will welcome back their No. 1 netminder tonight when they host Calgary, as Mike Smith will make his first start since Oct. 18.

Smith, who’s missed the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, stopped 54 of 60 shots before getting hurt — for a .900 save percentage. While those numbers aren’t great, they did come in a small sample size, and it was clear the Coyotes struggled without their veteran presence in goal.

Arizona went 4-8-0 while Smith was out, relying largely on Louis Domingue over that span.

Smith’s return isn’t the only big storyline, however.

For the first time this season, Calgary will start Chad Johnson on back-to-back nights. Johnson is coming off a 27-save shutout win over Minnesota on Tuesday, his second strong effort of the month (back on Nov. 3, he stopped 26 shots in a 3-2 win over the Sharks.)

Given the Flames are desperate for wins and just suffered a major blow with the Johnny Gaudreau injury, head coach Glen Gulutzan seems to be in “play whoever gives us the best chance to win” mode.

That strategy, at least for tonight, comes at the expense of No. 1 netminder Brian Elliott, who hasn’t played since allowing four goals on 28 shots in a loss to the Rangers on Saturday.

Elsewhere…

— Light night on the NHL schedule, with just one other game: In Washington, we’ll get a rematch of last year’s second-round playoff series as Matt Murray and the visiting Penguins take on Braden Holtby and the Caps. Murray has been outstanding since returning from a broken hand, going 4-0-0 with a 1.25 GAA and .961 save percentage.

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