Pacific: Smith leading Coyotes first-place surge

By Andrew Knoll

Photo:

Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith won every start in the month of February (Chris Pondy/Icon SMI)


The recent surge of the Phoenix Coyotes has been due in part to the play of their goaltender, Mike Smith. For his efforts, Smith is one of the three stars in the Pacific Division for the week of Feb. 24-Mar.1.


First Star: Mike Smith, G, Phoenix Coyotes –
Smith was stellar yet again this week, stopping 60 of 62 shots he faced in two wins, including a 40-save effort in Phoenix’s 2-1 win over conference-leading Vancouver. He could have placed a bit lower, but his excellence in February deserved special recognition. He finished the month 11-0-0 with a 1.42 goals-against average, a .952 save percentage and two shutouts. His magnificent play has vaulted the Coyotes into first place in the division. After a flawless February, Smith earned his first loss in 12 starts after Calgary broke the game open with three late first-period goals Thursday.

Second Star: Dustin Brown, RW, Los Angeles Kings
The Kings captain continues to pick up his team when they struggle. In their last seven games, the Kings have just two wins, both of which were spearheaded by multi-point efforts from Brown. His hat trick against Chicago and two helpers against Minnesota saved the Kings from a severe skid. In December, he had a similar stretch where he scored in five straight Kings victories, including one that snapped a five-game losing streak, and provided stability during a protracted coaching change

Third Star: Loui Eriksson, LW, Dallas Stars
Eriksson had three assists and two goals, which were both game-winners, in three games this week. The two-way standout scored in overtime against Vancouver, gave the Stars the lead for good against Minnesota and had the primary assist on a goal that sent the Stars onto a shootout loss against Pittsburgh. He has seven points in his last four games and 13 in his last 11.

Weekend Preview

The Stars travel to Western Canada for a three-game road trip, which begins in Edmonton Friday and continues in Calgary Sunday. Anaheim will play a back-to-back, hosting the Flames Friday and then visiting the Kings Saturday in Los Angeles’ only contest of the weekend. The Sharks host St. Louis Saturday, with both teams coming off of shutout losses to elite goalies (Ryan Miller and Roberto Luongo) on Thursday night. Finally, the Coyotes will host the Columbus Blue Jackets Saturday in a battle between the most successful team in February and the least successful squad all season.

Pacific Division Notes

Anaheim’s Jonas Hiller will set the record for consecutive starts by a Ducks goalie at 24 Friday night … Teemu Selanne needs one power-play goal to tie Luc Robitaille for fourth all-tme and three more to tie Phil Esposito for third … San Jose’s Dominic Moore was back in the lineup Thursday while Martin Havlat participated in his first gameday skate of 2012 Thursday. Logan Couture remains day-to-day while Douglas Murray closes in on his return … Phoenix’s Mike Smith saw his 11-game win streak snapped Thursday as the Coyotes fell short in their rally from an 0-3 deficit, falling 4-2 to Calgary. Captain Shane Doan has scored 20 or more goals in 11 of the last 12 seasons … Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty has not scored a power-play point since Feb. 1. In his last three games, Doughty has been held scoreless and only registered six shots on goal … Dallas captain Brenden Morrow skated for the first time in three weeks on Thursday. Meanwhile, Mike Ribeiro has been on a tear, notching 11 points during an eight-game scoring streak.