His profession requires him to wear a mask, one he chose to decorate with blood-stained teeth and the bulging eyeballs of a yeti, but even without it on, Coyotes goalie Thomas Greiss still seems to be hidden.

The mellow, easy-going facade is genuine but plenty more lurks behind it — like a passion for mountain biking the Alps, a trip to Chile on his to-do list and an affinity for "Forrest Gump."

Pull back the same exterior on the hockey player, and there's more to discover there, too.

Greiss' job description reads backup goaltender in the NHL and the Coyotes signed him to a one-year contract last summer to do just that for them, but a desire to be a starter has been percolating.

"For sure my goal is to be a starting goaltender," the 28-year-old German said.

And that's what likely kept the Coyotes in playoff contention when Mike Smith was sidelined with an apparent right knee injury almost two weeks ago.

Greiss wants to be a No. 1, and the Coyotes needed one to stay afloat in the standings. Four consecutive losses have dimmed the team's playoff outlook to grim, but that isn't Greiss' doing.

Instead, this late-season promotion might finally be the springboard he's been waiting for to land more responsibility.