Coyotes goalie Mike Smith’s current grim reality is familiar to goaltending coach Sean Burke, who spun his own long playoff odds into surprising success a quarter-century ago.

As a rookie with the New Jersey Devils in 1987-88, Burke corralled seven consecutive wins in the team’s final eight games — including an overtime victory on the last day of the regular season — to send the Devils into the playoffs for the first time. Their season ended in Game 7 of the conference finals.

“We basically had to win every game, and we did,” Burke said. “We got into the playoffs the last day of the season. I’ve been through a number of those years where it came down to the last month, and every game was basically a playoff game.

“But I think it’s almost in some ways — I wouldn’t say easier — but it’s nice to kind of be playing that sort of playoff hockey in the last month because it’s easy to focus and get up for every game.”

Since the Coyotes are already buried in must-win territory, history certainly could repeat itself with Smith. And his affinity — at least based on his play — for this stressful climate seems only to reinforce that possibility.

In the three games since he returned from a heavy collision behind the net with Vancouver Canucks defenseman Alex Edler, Smith has stopped 93 of 95 shots. He was stellar Monday in Vancouver, collecting 40 saves and allowing only one goal. And he was just as important Wednesday in Edmonton, withstanding a late push from the just-as-desperate Oilers in a 3-1 win.

“Mike’s done an outstanding job for us in his last three games,” Burke said. “He’s been our best player and given us a chance to win every game, and obviously he’s thriving off that situation right now.”