The Coyotes seem to like their chances no matter who is in net, and the feeling is mutual for the Hurricanes. Each club could use some extra offensive punch to back their goaltenders, though, as the Coyotes conclude a five-game road trip in Sunday’s matinée at Carolina.
Mike Smith, in his third season with Phoenix (3-2-0) and the clear No. 1 netminder, started the team’s first four games and most recently made 28 saves in a 4-2 victory in Detroit on Thursday as the Coyotes snapped a two-game skid.
Friday’s contest in Philadelphia was the club’s third in four nights, and coach Dave Tippett elected to start Thomas Greiss, who made 36 saves in a 2-1 victory in his first start for the Coyotes.
“We’re fortunate to have great goaltending,” captain Shane Doan said. “We’ve had great goaltending here the last few years. We count on that big-time, and (Greiss) just stepped in and that was unbelievable.”
Smith has stopped 75 of 79 shots while winning his last two starts against the Hurricanes — both in 2011 — and he’ll likely be back in net Sunday. Greiss’ performance Friday, though, helped support a fatigued Coyotes team.
Phoenix has scored two or fewer goals three times during its trip while going 1 for 12 on the power play.
“They come off (the ice) and you say they’re up again, and they kind of look at you, ‘You sure?'” Tippett said.
The Coyotes could get another tough challenge to end the trip no matter who is in goal for the Hurricanes (2-1-2), who already have played four one-goal contests on the young season.
Cam Ward made 36 saves Friday, but the ‘Canes fell 2-1 in a shootout after failing to score until Jeff Skinner’s power-play goal with 5:54 remaining in the third period. Anton Khudobin made 30 saves in Thursday’s 3-2 victory over the Capitals and has won both of his starts while posting a 1.50 goals-against average.
Coach Kirk Muller has been pleased with both goaltenders, and he hasn’t made a decision who he plans to start in this contest. Ward is 3-1-0 with a 2.73 GAA in his last four against the Coyotes, while Khudobin has yet to face them.
“We have two guys that are giving us a chance to win every night,” Muller told the team’s official website. “They’re playing well, and they can stay that much more healthy and rested. Right now, it’s a good issue with our team.”
Carolina has scored two or fewer goals in four of its five contests, though it has been battling injuries. Forward Elias Lindholm is day to day with an upper-body injury, and defenseman Justin Faulk will be a game-time decision due to an undisclosed injury.
Defenseman Mike Komisarek saw his first action of the season in Friday’s contest.
“It’s a grind, and you have to be ready each night to jump in and contribute,” Komisarek said. “If we’re going to have success this season, we’re going to need everyone chipping in each and every night.”
The return of Tuomo Ruutu, who missed the first 29 games last season after hip surgery and played just 17 total, could help boost the offense. Muller said the veteran might play Sunday after being sidelined by a lower-body injury.
“As soon as he feels he is fit to go,” Muller said.
Carolina has lost four of its last five home matchups with Phoenix.