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Smith is 'Ready to Take That Next Step'

Monday, 08.08.2011 / 7:31 PM / Features
By Dave Vest
GLENDALE -- Veterans will report to training camp in less than six weeks, and Coyotes goalie Mike Smith can’t wait. That’s because Smith, who signed with Phoenix as a free agent on July 1, will be starting a new chapter in his NHL career, one he and the Coyotes hope will solidify him as a bona fide  No. 1 netminder.

Mike Smith makes a save for Tampa Bay. Photo by Getty Images.
“I’m excited about getting the opportunity to play some games and reuniting with coach (Dave) Tippett, who I have a lot of respect for,” Smith said. “I believe in what he does and I believe in his system. I believe it’s very goalie-friendly... I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to play a lot of games.”

Smith played under Tippett when both were with the Dallas Stars organization a few seasons ago.

“'Smitty’ is a guy that I always thought had potential to be a very good No. 1 goalie in the NHL … and I think he’s ready to take that next step,” Tippett said. “I think he and (Jason) LaBarbera will be very good players for us, and I think our players will embrace the way they play.”

Dallas selected Smith with the 161st pick of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft. He played 44 games for the Stars before being traded to Tampa Bay in the deal that sent Brad Richards to Dallas in 2008. In four seasons with the Lightning, Smith posted a 43-52-17 record and six shutouts.

Smith battled multiple injuries in 2010-11 and in February was waived and assigned to the American Hockey League. He returned to the Lightning late in the season and played three playoff games for Tampa Bay, which reached the Eastern Conference Finals. He played very well, stopping 48 of 50 postseason shots and notching a 1.00 goals-against average in three games.

Mike Smith
“It was a really hard year,” Smith said. “It was probably one of the hardest years of my career. Obviously, injuries happen and I’ve learned how to deal with those. I also learned a lot about my game and about being a professional and what I have to do to be a good goalie in this league. I think if I improve as much as I did last year - in a better situation here in Phoenix - I’m going to be a great goaltender down the road.”

Both Smith and Tippett believe Coyotes goaltending coach Sean Burke will help Smith take the next step.

“He’s a great athlete,” Burke said. “Anybody you talk to - including Gary Roberts who’s been his trainer for a couple summers - they rave about his athletic ability. In fact, Gary said he was the best athlete he was training. That’s not the most common thing for a trainer - to have a bunch of hockey players and for a goaltender to be the best athlete. His style is based around that (athleticism).”

Smith prides himself on being in excellent physical shape.

“You can’t expect your game to be where it needs to be if you’re out of shape,” Smith said. “That’s a huge part of my approach.”

Regarding LaBarbera, Smith said he is eager to form an alliance.

“Jason is a really great goaltender and I hope we’re going to have a friendly competition and push each other to be our best,” Smith said. “If we do that we’ll have a very successful year.”

Brigitte Acton.
Not only does Smith have a new job away from home, he also has a new job at home. Smith and his wife Brigitte Acton, an accomplished alpine skier who competed for Canada at the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics, welcomed their first child – a boy they named Aksel Acton Smith – on July 17.

RELATED CONTENT:

• Click here to view Mike Smith’s career stats.

• Click here to watch a video of Mike Smith taking batting practice with the Tampa Bay Rays - narrated by Steven Stamkos.

• Click here to visit Brigitte Acton’s official web site.
 
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