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After 40-game absence, Smith back for Coyotes tonight

Phoenix Coyotes v Vancouver Canucks

VANCOUVER, BC - JANUARY 26: Goaltender Mike Smith #41 of the Phoenix Coyotes skates during warm-up prior to facing the Vancouver Canucks before their NHL game at Rogers Arena on January 26, 2014 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. (Photo by Ben Nelms/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mike Smith

Ben Nelms

Arizona will have a familiar face -- or mask, as it was -- in goal tonight as Mike Smith returns from a 40-game absence to take on the Oilers in Edmonton.

Smith has been out of the lineup since early December following core muscle surgery. That left starting duties to the club’s backup, Anders Lindback, and rookie AHL call-up Louis Domingue -- but when Lindback tore his Achilles during pregame stretching in mid-February, the goalie duties were left to Domingue and another AHL recall, Niklas Treutle, who was tending net in the German League last season.

Needless to say, it’s been a tough campaign for Coyotes goalies.

“I just want to play and feel healthy and help the team try to succeed,” Smiths said, per the Coyotes’ Twitter. “It’s tough watching from the sidelines.”

Smith, who’s had his struggles in Arizona, was off to an erratic start before getting hurt. He sandwiched a very good November -- going 6-2-0 with a .918 save percentage -- between below-average efforts in October and December.

It’ll be interesting to see how he fares in his comeback attempt. Arizona’s lineup is thinned out at the moment, and one thing that won’t help Smith’s cause is the injury to star defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He’s unlikely to play for the third straight game tonight.