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Coyotes roundtable: Finding a winning combination

The FFH delves into the pressing questions of goaltending, call-ups and biggest needs on this week's roundtable.

Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
Mike Smith has put together three solid games in a row. Is he back to being the bell cow between the pipes?

Brendan Porter: Was there any doubt really? Seriously though, the Coyotes were not going anywhere this season without Mike Smith between the pipes on a full-time basis. He still has a ways to go before he's even league average, but he's finally trending in the right direction.

Seth Juneac: He is definitely the bell cow, but the Bessy from 2011-12 is not back just yet. I think we knew all along that Smith would find himself before too long. But Arizona will go where Smith goes. He's playing about league-average goaltending right now; he will need to be elite going forward if this is to be a playoff team.

Carl Pavlock: I'm extremely happy to see Smith look more like himself so I think he will continue to be "The One" for the Coyotes moving forward. His weak start may have actually been a bit of a blessing in disguise for the Coyotes as it forced Tip to start Dubs early on and he showed that he could be relied on. Too often in the past I felt Smith started too frequently early in the season and on back to backs, and with a backup who proved himself early, I'm hoping that won't be as much of an issue moving forward.

Christopher Hair: He is going to get the majority of the starts for this team as long as he is healthy. If the defense plays solid in front of him like they did against Florida and Toronto, Smith should continue to be the best option for this team. As his confidence grows and the season moves along, he might even bring back the Smith of old who steals a game or two on his own, but I don't think he has it there quite yet. Arizona will need that Smith to get back into playoff contention.

Is the youth movement on or will a healthy David Moss keep young forwards in the minors?

Joey Versen: I'd be surprised if Tip disregarded recent success and reverted to the lineup that made the Yotes truly look like contenders in the McDavid hunt. Until the current look of the team starts to produce atrocious results similar to what we witnessed during the first few weeks, the youth movement should continue.

Christopher: Moss is an underrated guy whom has misplaced expectations from most fans. He's not a scorer, but he is a solid possession player who brings defensive responsibility and solid penalty kill skills (he hurt himself blocking shots on a PK). I like the spark that Rieder has brought and I think that coach Tippett will have a tough time keeping him out of the lineup, but two games is hardly a resume. He'll continue to get his looks and look for Crombeen, Moss and Chip to rotate through the press box as scratches. Hopefully.

Seth: I don't want to make it sound like Moss's injury is a positive in any shape, but Rieder and Hodgman have played good hockey in his absence. You know what you get in Dave Moss: a solid penalty killer and bottom-six kind of guy. For Hodgman and Rieder, the jury is still out. Personally, I'll take what's in the mystery box.

Carl: It's funny how every year the ire of most Coyotes fans is forced onto one player who probably doesn't deserve it. Previously it has been Yandle -- this year I think it is Dave Moss. I really do like the Youth Movement 2.0 and that they are trying new things to kickstart the offense. I thought giving Hodgman a shot was a good move, and even though I didn't notice him as much against the Leafs. I thought Rieder looked really solid his first game. That being said Moss being healthy could be a benefit though, if nothing else it gives them an excuse to bench Crombeen.

Do you think the Boedker-Gagner combination will stick together for the foreseeable future or will time slowly bring the Boedker-Vermette-Doan line back together?

Brendan: I think Dave Tippett will stick with Boedker-Gagner until it stops working. The 89-50-19 combination seems to be the "reset" button for Tippett's lines, so at some point I imagine Tippett would revert back to that at some point before revising combinations again.

Joey: This comes down to results, ultimately. Playing with Boedker seems to have ignited Gagner's game and if that shows no signs of changing, there's no reason to break them up. Having Boedker, Vermette and Doan together wasn't exactly guaranteeing victories on a nightly basis. I'm all for whatever's working at this point, and I think coach Tippett is too.

Christopher: I like the combo of Gagner and Boedker. Boedker needs to be a shooter and Gagner needs a finisher. They fit together like peas and carrots. Injuries, slumps, and uninspired play could force line juggling again, but as long the Coyotes stay on this current path, Gagner with Mikkel makes sense and gives Arizona much more balance through it's lines. With an inconsistent offense, balance is needed.

Seth: Boedker and Gagner have developed some nice chemistry, and Korpikoski rounds out that line pretty nicely. If they stick together, I wouldn't be particularly upset. But any line configuration should be considered ultimately temporary as long as Tippett is the coach.

How many goals will Martin Erat score this season?

Brendan: 16

Carl: 18

Christopher: 22

Seth: 20

Joey: 15

What is Arizona's biggest need?

Seth: I was tempted to say a physical defenseman, but Yandle and OEL have stepped up their physical game in recent weeks, and maybe a "sandpaper-by-committee" approach is in the Coyotes' plans. If nothing else, there are so many defensive bodies, it doesn't make sense to pursue any more. So I guess by default, GMDM should kick the tires on anything that can bring back a top-six forward without shaking up the roster too much. Although, at this point maybe the pipeline is more sacred.

Carl: It is tough to pick just one area for this so I'm going to go with a top-six forward. I really don't think the Coyotes have a guy you can throw on the ice late in the game and tell him you need to score a goal now. Things have started to pick up on 5-on-5, but I don't trust their ability to consistently generate offense. If they are down by two goals, I don't trust their ability to come back.

Joey: They need a physical D man. What they've got now may work in stints, but its not enough on a nightly basis. There needs to be one more stalwart guy on the blue line to really bolster that core.

Christopher: Arizona's penalty kill has scuffled recently with the injury to Dave Moss. If he comes back healthy, it should get better, but if the PK doesn't become more consistent they will struggle. I'd like to see them target a third liner with PK skills and some offensive ability. Someone like Michael Frolik would be a nice fit for this team.