By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will play their final home game before a five-game trip tonight when they host the Montreal Canadiens at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (7-4-2) hasn't played a game since beating Edmonton, 4-2, on Saturday night on home ice.
will start in goal for the Coyotes. Smith, who has won his past four starts, is 2-0-2 vs. Montreal in his career with a 2.11 goals-against average.
With the Coyotes, Smith has quickly proven he is capabale of being a starting goalie in the NHL.
"It helps when you know the coach has the confidence in you to do the job. Mentally, that's half the battle," Smith said. "Coming into this situation has been easier than I thought it would be because of that trust. I knew I could do it, but having people around me that know it too is a big help."
Center Martin Hanzal
will be back in the lineup for Phoenix after missing the past two games because of a lower-body injury. Despite missing those games, Hanzal is tied for third on the team with 10 points.
The Coyotes will play minus center Daymond Langkow
who has been granted a leave of absence from the team because of a death in his family.
Defenseman David Schlemko
will enter the game ranked tied for seventh in the NHL in plus/minus rating at plus-9. His partner, Rostislav Klesla
, is plus-7.
“They're very solid,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. “They talk about how we can't give easy things away. They play a simple effective game, they don't put themselves into trouble, and it's led to good results for them.”
|Photo by Getty Images.
Montreal (5-7-2) will enter the game looking to snap a two-game losing streak that followed a four-game winning streak.
Canadiens center Petteri Nokelainen knows the Coyotes well.
is a big factor for them but at the same time, they're playing a good team game,” said Nokelainen, whom Montreal acquired from Phoenix on Oct. 23, told the Canadiens' official Web site. “They rely on hard work and strong back checking and that's what they've been doing the last three years.”
Carey Price, who is a second cousin to Coyotes captain Shane Doan
, is expected to start in goal. Price is 4-0-0 with a 1.74 goals-against average vs. Phoenix in his career.
Left wing Max Pacioretty leads Montreal with six goals and ranks seventh in the NHL with 54 shots. He has taken 12 shots on goal in the last two games and scored twice.
The Coyotes are hosting Military Heroes Appreciation Night tonight. As part of the event, U.S. Sen. John McCain is scheduled to drop the ceremonial first puck, and the first 10,000 fans at Jobing.com Arena will receive a McCain bobble head doll. Click here for more information.