Even with a limited body of work for goalie Thomas Greiss this season, the Coyotes had enough confidence in him as a backup by the Olympic break that General Manager Don Maloney approached Greiss' agent during the league hiatus to discuss a contract extension.

Obviously, a deal wasn't accomplished, and one of the sticking points in the negotiation was Greiss' disappointment with his lack of playing time. To that point, he'd started only 10 games.

"He'd like to play a little more," Maloney said. "I certainly understood."

And now with No. 1 goalie Mike Smith sidelined for an indeterminate amount of time with an apparent right-leg injury, Greiss' chance has arrived.

"Here's a player that's been desperate to try to get in the net and show people he's a Number 1 goalie," Maloney said. "Now is his opportunity to do so."

Greiss will be back between the pipes Thursday when the Coyotes close out a three-game road trip in New Jersey against the Devils. His 23-save effort Tuesday in Pittsburgh during a 3-2 win was his eighth victory of the season.

Overall, Greiss has been steady with a .924 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. Maloney said the Coyotes attempted to sign him three years ago, and talks on a new contract will resume once the season ends.

"He's done a terrific job up to date, and we have nine games left to see if he can get the job done," Maloney said.

It's still unclear, though, if Greiss actually will be on the hook for all of the remaining games. Smith is still considered day to day by the team with a lower-body injury. His results from an MRI test taken Tuesday in Pittsburgh have been sent back to the team's doctors in Phoenix, and the Coyotes expect more clarity on a timeline for a return once Smith visits with their medical team Friday.

"Certainly from our training staff's point of view, where he's at today couldn't be more positive in the sense that when we all saw the injury and him leaving the game, certainly it looked dire," Maloney said. "But it's been encouraging how quickly he's responded to treatment the last few days."

But Smith's absence hasn't been the only lineup change. The Coyotes listed center Mike Ribeiro and defenseman Derek Morris as healthy scratches against the Penguins.