Domingue making his case for Coyotes’ backup role

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said last month he will probably sign a veteran goalie this offseason because he doesn’t believe any of his goaltending prospects are ready to assume the backup position behind Mike Smith.

Louis Domingue is trying to change Maloney’s mind, but he isn’t doing so by talking to his boss.

"I don’t need a conversation with anyone to know that I have a shot right now and I’m trying to grab it," Domingue said.

The sample size is still too small, but Domingue is making an early case. In his first start at Gila River Arena and his second career NHL start, Domingue turned aside 38 Nashville shots as the Coyotes earned a point in a 2-1 overtime loss on Monday.

In two starts and four NHL games (his first start came in Montreal in whose suburbs he grew up) Domingue has stopped 79 of 85 shots for a .929 save percentage. 

Predators right winger James Neal banged in a rebound of defenseman Seth Jones’ shot from the slot with 2:15 left in overtime, and goalie Pekka Rinne made 27 saves to keep Domingue from his second NHL win. But there wasn’t much more he could have done against a desperate Predators team that had lost six straight games.

"That’s two starts in the NHL now and he’s got three out of four points," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "He’s played very well."

It wasn’t hard for Domingue to get focused in Monday’s game. The first shot he faced came off the stick of Nashville defenseman Roman Josi and struck Domingue in the face.

Predators 2, Coyotes 1

"That wakes you up, that’s for sure," said Domingue, who heard the ring of the post on the second shot he faced.

Domingue’s opportunity is coming in part because Mark Visentin, the Coyotes’ second, first-round pick in 2010 (27th overall) has missed the entire season after undergoing ankle surgery to repair an injury suffered in training camp.

The other goalie the Coyotes have used, Mike McKenna, is a veteran whose recalls have been more of a reward. Tippett said after Monday’s game that Domingue’s rewards for his recent play will come in the form of more minutes. 

"There’s certain games that I think Smitty should be in — your No. 1 guy is going to be in there," Tippett said. "But we’re going to plan on getting Louis some more games." 

Maloney seemed adamant when he talked about signing a veteran next season, and Tippett didn’t want to think that far ahead with just two starts under Domingue’s belt.

"Let’s get through this year first," Tippett said. 

Despite those comments and the sobering fact that Domingue just turned 23 on Friday, his talk is that of someone who is confident and resolute in his goals. When asked about playing his first game in front of Coyotes fans, Domingue smiled.

"It was fun, the crowd was into it," he said. "I know it’s a great place and it’s definitely somewhere I need to be next year.

"For sure, that first game in Montreal was a little nerve-wracking but it’s behind me and I’m moving forward and I’m really comfortable."

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