Anders Lindback

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After 40-game absence, Smith back for Coyotes tonight

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Arizona will have a familiar face — or mask, as it was — in goal tonight as Mike Smith returns from a 40-game absence to take on the Oilers in Edmonton.

Smith has been out of the lineup since early December following core muscle surgery. That left starting duties to the club’s backup, Anders Lindback, and rookie AHL call-up Louis Domingue — but when Lindback tore his Achilles during pregame stretching in mid-February, the goalie duties were left to Domingue and another AHL recall, Niklas Treutle, who was tending net in the German League last season.

Needless to say, it’s been a tough campaign for Coyotes goalies.

“I just want to play and feel healthy and help the team try to succeed,” Smiths said, per the Coyotes’ Twitter. “It’s tough watching from the sidelines.”

Smith, who’s had his struggles in Arizona, was off to an erratic start before getting hurt. He sandwiched a very good November — going 6-2-0 with a .918 save percentage — between below-average efforts in October and December.

It’ll be interesting to see how he fares in his comeback attempt. Arizona’s lineup is thinned out at the moment, and one thing that won’t help Smith’s cause is the injury to star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He’s unlikely to play for the third straight game tonight.

Goalie nods: Treutle makes first NHL start for Coyotes

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Niklas Treutle, the former German League standout signed by Arizona last summer, will make his first-ever NHL start tonight as the Coyotes host the Ducks in Glendale.

Treutle, 24, made his NHL debut last month with a 10-minute relief appearance after Louis Domingue got the hook against the Blues.

The Coyotes are coming off a disastrous road trip that ended with a 6-0 whipping in Pittsburgh, so it’s not surprising they’ll rest Domingue — a rookie that’s been pressed into starting duties this year with injuries to Mike Smith and Anders Lindback — and give Treutle a look.

Unfortunately for Treutle, his first start comes against a red-hot Ducks team that’s surged up the Pacific Division standings. They’ll start Frederik Andersen in goal.

Elsewhere…

— After Corey Crawford beat the Red Wings last night, Scott Darling gets the start against Boston. Tuukka Rask is likely for the B’s.

— It’s Jonas Hiller versus the in-form Robin Lehner as the Flames take on the Sabres in Buffalo.

Michal Neuvirth, who appears to be Philly’s No. 1 netminder at the moment, starts again tonight against the visiting Oilers. Cam Talbot starts for Edmonton.

— Marquee matchup brewing in Pittsburgh, as Henrik Lundqvist will go for the Rangers. The Pens are expected to give Marc-Andre Fleury the nod.

— After Jonathan Bernier lost in Washington last night, Garret Sparks starts for the Leafs. Devan Dubnyk is likely for the visiting Wild.

Craig Anderson‘s still hurt, so Andrew Hammond will make the start tonight against Tampa Bay. The Bolts, as per usual, are going with Ben Bishop, who on Wednesday was named to Team USA for the World Cup of Hockey.

— The Isles will give Jaroslav Halak the night off, and give Thomas Greiss the nod. The host Jets will go with Michael Hutchinson.

— Speaking of nights off, Cory Schneider gets one as the Devils will start Keith Kinkaid in Nashville. Pekka Rinne is likely for the Preds.

Calvin Pickard gets the start tonight, after the Avs parked struggling No. 1 netminder Seymon Varlamov. Veteran Roberto Luongo goes for the visiting Panthers.

Martin Jones versus Ryan Miller as the Sharks take on the Canucks in Vancouver.

Ben Scrivens versus Jonathan Quick as the Habs take on Kings in L.A.

Arizona’s goalie situation sure is something

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After being forced to dress a beer-leaguer as their emergency backup in last night’s win over Montreal, the Coyotes have recalled goalie Niklas Treutle from AHL Springfield.

On it’s own, not much of a story.

But within the context of the Coyotes’ insane crease conundrum, pretty interesting.

No. 1 netminder Mike Smith has been out since mid-December following core muscle surgery. Anders Lindback, originally signed to be Smith’s No. 2, suffered some kind of “off-ice injury” yesterday, which forced the club to sign Nate Schoenfeld — a local amateur ‘tender and son of ex-Coyotes coach Jim — to back up Louis Domingue.

(Per TSN, the Lindback injury might be serious, and he could be done for the season.)

Domingue, of course, came into this season as Arizona’s No. 3 on the depth chart. Prior to the year, he had a grand total of seven games of NHL experience.

He’s played 23 already this year, and is firmly entrenched as the Coyotes’ starting netminder.

And his new backup is Treutle (pronounced troyt-LAY, in case you were curious), a 24-year-old undrafted free agent that — prior to signing with the Coyotes — spent all of his professional career in the German League.

Signed from EHC Red Bull Muchen this offseason, Treutle has spent the ’15-16 campaign exclusively in the Springfield, where he’s gone 9-11-5 with a .909 save percentage and 2.91 GAA.

It’ll be curious to see how long the Domingue-Treutle combo will last. Smith has returned to partial practice and appears on track for a late-February/early-March return, but his timetable has never been very specific.

Whatever the case, life is going to be tough for Domingue and Treutle in the coming days. The Coyotes host the high-octane Dallas Stars this Thursday then, next Monday, head out on a five-game road swing that begins with a date against league-leading Washington.

Therrien’s torment: Coyotes hand Canadiens a crushing loss

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The Montreal Canadiens aren’t that far removed from their ultra-rare three-game winning streak. It just feels like it.

They were absolutely embarrassed by the Arizona Coyotes on Monday night, dropping a 6-2 defeat. It’s the second straight loss in which they’ve allowed six goals (the Buffalo Sabres beat them 6-4 on Friday).

These letdowns likely wash away most, if not all, of the good feelings from that fleeting run. The bigger picture doesn’t help their cause:

It’s tough not to wonder if the Habs are tuning out Michel Therrien, even if GM Marc Bergevin gave him a vote of confidence fairly recently. At least one observer believes that Therrien deflected some blame:

The Coyotes never really needed to worry about Anders Lindback‘s off-the-ice injury, as Louis Domingue was fine with his team in control. It may be a concern going forward, however.

Some might cling to playoff hopes for the Canadiens, yet beyond the Therrien question, there’s a tough call to make perhaps even sooner: should the Habs be sellers at the trade deadline?

Goalie nods: Coyotes turn back to Domingue for key game against Vancouver

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Tonight is a big game for the Arizona Coyotes, as they host Vancouver, one of the teams they’re jockeying with for the final wild-card spot in the West.

If the Coyotes can beat the Canucks in regulation, they’ll move to within two points of Colorado for that final wild-card spot, with three games in hand on the Avs. Not only that, Vancouver’s playoff hopes would be dealt a significant blow.

Of course, that’s a pretty sizable “if” the way the Coyotes have been playing. The Desert Dogs are winless in their last four, with 21 total goals surrendered.

“We have to shore up some things and our goaltending has to be better,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett told reporters, while confirming that Louis Domingue would get the start versus the Canucks.

Domingue, the NHL’s rookie of the month in January, has struggled of late, allowing five goals in each of his last three starts. In the Coyotes’ last game, they turned to Anders Lindback, only for Lindback to surrender five goals himself in a 5-2 loss to Anaheim.

For the Canucks, Ryan Miller is expected to start, after Jacob Markstrom got the win last night in Denver.

Elsewhere…

Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers in Pittsburgh, where Marc-Andre Fleury is expected to start for the Penguins.

Craig Anderson for the Senators in Detroit, where Petr Mrazek will make his third straight start for the Red Wings.