Jason LaBarbera starts for Coyotes as Mike Smith rests

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If you thought Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonas Gustavsson’s track record against the Capitals going into Saturday night wasn’t stellar, you’d be right (1-1-1, 3.93 goals-against average, .871 save percentage).

But considering the numbers Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith has put up against Washington – 0-6, 5.03 GAA, .843 save percentage – that’s nothing. But Smith won’t get the start Monday night at Verizon Center.

Instead, it’ll be backup Jason LaBarbera, who’s 1-2 this season with a 3.01 GAA and .900 save percentage. But coach Dave Tippett said it wasn’t because of Smith’s struggles against the Caps but rather a chance to lighten his starter’s workload.

Smitty’s given us a really good run here. We go home [Tuesday] and play three in four games at home against conference teams,” Tippett said. “We need to get Smitty a little bit of a break.”

Smith has started 15 of the Coyotes’ 18 games, going 9-3-3 with a 2.16 GAA and .936 save percentage. He has started six in a row.

LaBarbera is 1-1-1 with a 2.53 GAA and .900 save percentage all-time against the Caps. But Tippett is anticipating a good performance from LaBarbera in his first start since Nov. 3.

Barbs has come in here and these are the kind of games that he’s excelled in in the past,” Tippett said. “He gets a tough game to jump into, and we expect him to do the job.”

To read about why Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau gave Tomas Vokoun the nod Monday, click here.

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