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Lower-body injury ends Mike Smith’s night

Jan 23, 2013, 11:10 PM EST

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 27: Mike Smith #41 of the Phoenix Coyotes makes his way to the ice for warm-ups prior to facing the Nashville Predators in Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals during the 2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Jobing.com Arena on April 27, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images) Getty Images

Mike Smith allowed 10 goals overall in the Phoenix Coyotes’ first two games of the season, but he didn’t leave Wednesday’s contest against the Columbus Blue Jackets because of a poor performance.

The big goalie won’t return to the game after suffering a lower-body injury in the first period, AZ Central’s Sarah McLellan reports. Backup Jason LaBarbera, 36, took over for the Coyotes’ workhorse in this game.

It’s unclear how serious Smith’s injury is just yet.

A troubling history

Many came into this season wondering if the 30-year-old netminder could show the consistency he did in a breakthrough 2011-12 campaign, but it’s easy to forget that injuries have arguably been his biggest hurdle.

His time with the Tampa Bay Lightning was marred by health problems. Smith managed seasons of 42, 41 and 22 games played with the Bolts before Phoenix’s career-high 67 contests last season.

Big stakes

There’s a lot on the line for the goalie and his team. Smith is in a contract year, so another strong season could strengthen the argument that he didn’t just have a lucky campaign. Meanwhile, as much magic as Dave Tippett has managed, it’s hard to imagine the Coyotes approaching last year’s surprising run with LaBarbera as the No.1 guy.

Phoenix is already 0-2-0 with this game against Columbus still in action, yet the team’s rocky start could get much uglier if this situation goes wrong.

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