More than a decade ago, when he was starting out, Smith played 27 games for the ECHL team in Lexington, Ky., and scored a goal there. It also demonstrates Smith’s value as a puck-handler, one of the reasons the Coyotes value him in their defence-first system. His ability to play the puck far outstrips the average NHL goalie – and takes the pressure off defencemen, even in the era of the trapezoid.
“That’s a big part of the way we play in our own end, especially with regards to our personnel,” said Burke. “We have a few defencemen back there who are lighter guys. We don’t want to see them have to go back to the corner and get the puck all the time and get physically abused. So he makes it a lot better and easier. It just becomes part of the way we defend and break out. If we can get the puck in his hands and move it to our defencemen, it makes it a lot easier for everybody.”
Smith is also a candidate for Canada’s Olympic hockey team, so playing well against Detroit, the only time he would come face-to-face with Mike Babcock, the Red Wings’ and Olympic coach, can’t hurt his chances.
MORE GOALIE CHATTER
The Devils’ Martin Brodeur is the all-time leader in goalie goals with three, two in the regular season, 13 years apart, plus one in the 1997 playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens. Eight games into the new season, the Devils finally won with Cory Schneider, the ex-Canuck in goal – a shutout victory over the New York Rangers. It will be interesting to see how the Devils deploy their goaltenders going forward. When they brought in Schneider in the offseason as Brodeur’s heir apparent, they went out of their way to say the latter was still the team’s No. 1 goalie. New Jersey plays 22 back-to-backs this season, in which each goalie will likely get a start. But in between you’d have to think Schneider will – or should – get the far heavier workload. Right now, his goals-against average is down to 1.99, with a .927 save percentage, while Brodeur is at 3.40 and .865 … Ron Hextall is the only other NHL goalie to score more than one goal in his NHL career. Like Brodeur, Hextall managed the feat in both the NHL regular season and playoffs. Hextall is now back with the Philadelphia Flyers as assistant general manager, returning to the organization where he played after years of managing the same portfolio for the Los Angeles Kings. The expectation is that Hextall will eventually replace Paul Holmgren as the team’s GM; the only real question is when that might occur. The Flyers are off to a disastrously slow start, which cost coach Peter Laviolette his coaching job just three games into the season. The Flyers are on a week off right now, which allows new coach Craig Berube to conduct a mini-training camp of sorts. There were some who wondered why, if they were so unsure about Laviolette being the right coach for this group, the Flyers didn’t make the move in the offseason. Maybe they understood they had a window in October for a new coach to come in and do some real instructing, if they struggled out of the gate. Certainly, Berube will be emphasizing how they need to press the reset button when they start up Thursday, with a game against the Rangers ... The bidding to see which TV network lands Martin Biron will start in earnest now that the former Rangers’ netminder officially announced his retirement Sunday after a 16-year career. Biron was joking about that in September during the Rangers’ training camp visit to Banff – that the competition for analysts is heating up in Quebec, where the expectation is that they’ll eventually get a second NHL team, either via expansion or relocation. Biron has also been a frequent guest on TSN panels during the playoffs, and has a natural on-air charm that translates well in either of Canada’s official languages. Biron was thought of mostly as a backup in the latter stages of his career, but he played 72 games once for the Buffalo Sabres in the 2001-02 season, which ranked him second in games played that year. His best playoff came in 2008, when Biron helped the Flyers get to the conference final. It was one of only two years that he played in a playoff game.