COYOTES (14-15-5…33 pts) at SHARKS (16-11-6…38 pts)
WHEN: Saturday Night 7:30pm PDT
WHERE: The Shark Tank
TV: NoCal: CSN-California Phoenix: Fox Sports Arizona Centre Ice: Everywhere outside of NoCal and Arizona
Radio: KUFX 98.5/102.1 San Jose/SF Bay Area, Sharks Radio Network… Phoenix: KGME-AM XtraSports 910 …
The San Jose Sharks enter this match up with the Phoenix Coyotes riding on an amazing three game winning steak beating Anaheim twice and the Detroit Red Wings Thursday evening. The Sharks who have struggled mightily after a season opening seven game winning streak are at the crossroads of a season that has had it share of good moments as well as some very bad ones too. The Sharks have scored 11 goals in their last three games after a 2-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild a week ago today. The Sharks had dropped 17 of 23 games (Counting overtime and shootout losses) before Monday’s emotional win against the arch rival Ducks on the heals of long time Shark defenseman Douglas Murray’s trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins. Antti Niemi going into this game has a two game shut out streak and became the first Sharks goalie in the 22 year history of the franchise to post white washes on back to back evenings. Niemi has posted over 121 consecutive shutout minutes. Joe Pavelski is starting to find his scoring touch again, Logan Couture has been the most solid and reliable player on the team. Brent Burns has five goals since being moved to forward from defenseman, Patrick Marleau is showing signs of finding his game once again, and Joe Thornton is once again becoming the team catalyst. Though the Sharks power play continues to struggle, the penalty kill has continued to be the one thing the Sharks have been able to show great success with this season. The Sharks enter this game holding the 7th seeded spot in the Western Conference Standings.
The Phoenix Coyotes enter tonight’s game tied for 12th in the Western Conference Standings and has been a streaky team all along this shortened season. The Coyotes are a hard team to truly gage as they can either beat you 7-3, 2-0 or get beaten 8-2, 5-1, 3-0. It really depends on which Coyotes team gets to the rink first on any given evening. Shane Doan is still the leader of the Coyotes as he brings his “A” game every single night regardless of how well or poor his team is doing. They Coyotes still have much of the roster in tact that made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals last season. Radim Vrbata, Mikkel Boedker, Keith Yandle, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, David Moss alongside Doan still have a team that on any given night can not only compete but also find may ways to beat you. The Coyotes have gone though a recent bad stretch going 0-6-1 through seven games before routing the Nashville Predators 7-4 Thursday Night. As for their goalies, Mike Smith has been a net minder who has had the Sharks number of recent shutting out team teal in four of his last seven starts against them. Veteran Jason LaBarbera is Smith’s back up…
The Sharks and Coyotes have split two meetings at the Shark Tank this season. The Sharks winning the first meeting 5-3 on January 24th, the Coyotes winning the last meeting on February 9th by a 1-0 score in a game decided in a shootout. For more information on tonight’s match-up, here’s NHL.com’s Matthew Mankiewich take on Saturday night’s match-up… **
Season Series: It’s been a split so far, each taking a game at the Shark Tank. They’ll play this one in HP Pavilion again then go to Glendale twice in April.
Big story: Now that the Coyotes have blasted their way out of a near-fatal seven-game slump, the object is to string a few more wins together and regain some ground in the Western Conference playoff race. The Sharks are one of the fortunate teams above the cutoff line, and back-to-back shutouts by Antti Niemi have helped keep them there, but there is not much room for error as seven points separate fifth from 13th place in the standings going into Friday’s action. This is the third of a crucial seven-game homestand for San Jose.
Coyotes: With their six-goal first period in a 7-4 win at Nashville on Thursday, not only did the Coyotes tie a franchise record set in 1999 and send Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne to the bench in less than four minutes, they snapped out of a funk that had seen them score just eight goals during an 0-6-1 slide.
“Whatever it takes; if it takes seven goals to win, that’s what we need right now,” said Radim Vrbata, who scored two of the six first-period goals. “It was a crazy first period. That’s not our style of play. I’m sure that’s not theirs either, but we will take whatever we can get.”
Sharks: While the Coyotes caught fire offensively Thursday night, Niemi was busy extinguishing Detroit’s three-game winning streak. For the third time in his career, he posted a second straight shutout as the Sharks beat the Red Wings 2-0 at HP Pavilion. It was the first time in his career and the first time in franchise history that a goaltender had posted shutouts on successive nights.
“I felt good after last night,” said Niemi, who had 27 saves in the win, the Sharks’ third straight — their most since winning seven in a row to open the season. “I thought I was able to be real patient and wait for the pucks and then react. I wasn’t cheating or expecting anything else. I was just reading the play. That’s a confidence thing for sure.”
Who’s hot: Coyotes defenseman Rostislav Klesla‘s four assists in that six-goal first period Thursday ties yet another franchise record for points in a single period and matches his career single-game high. Keith Yandle‘s goal gave him points in three straight games and four of five, while David Moss‘ goal also extended his point streak to three games. … Joe Pavelski‘s goal on Thursday made it three games in a row with at least one. Brent Burns scored the other goal and has a similar three-game goal-scoring streak.
Injury report: Coyotes forward Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) missed the past two games and is day-to-day. Goalie Mike Smith (upper body) sat out in Minnesota and Nashville, but is accompanying the team on the road trip pending a possible return by next week. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek (lower body) skated Monday but may not be ready. … Sharks forward Tim Kennedy (undisclosed) will stay on injured reserve, while goalie Thomas Greiss (neck) will play some games in Worcester of the AHL to get back into playing shape.
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