From his nook at the end of the bench, Coyotes backup goalie Jason LaBarbera has had a front-row view of the Coyotes' quest to the Western Conference finals.

Although he hasn't been called to duty in the playoffs, his emotional investment into the team is at its peak -- especially when witnessing the journey colleague Mike Smith has been assembling as one of the top performers in the postseason.

"You always knew he had the athletic ability, that ability to be an awesome goalie," LaBarbera said. "He had a tough time in Tampa, I think, and he's come here and man, it's been awesome to watch. He's just taken the ball and ran with it."

LaBarbera underplays his role in Smith's game, explaining that during TV timeouts, "I don't say much. I just make sure he's got his Pedialyte ready, his water ready and make sure it's ready to go and make sure (head equipment manager Stan Wilson's) on the ball with a towel."

But Smith has appreciated the relationship that's developed between the pair as teachers and confidantes.