Season series: The San Jose Sharks have won two of three games against the Phoenix Coyotes this season. Each of the past two matchups has gone to a shootout, with the clubs splitting them.
Big story: The Coyotes, who currently sit four points shy of eighth place in the Western Conference, need a win -- but the Sharks are also still trying to cement their place in the top eight.
Coyotes: Like the Sharks, Phoenix was on a roll after the first week of April. With points in six straight games (4-0-2) the Coyotes were two points shy of eighth in the West and alone in ninth place. A three-game trip to Western Canada produced only three of six possible points, and the Coyotes have slipped to 11th in the conference. Six of the Coyotes' final seven games are against teams ahead of them in the standings, including another matchup at home against San Jose on the 24th.
“The walls are getting tighter and tighter so we’re going to have to find ways to get more points,” captain Shane Doan said after Sunday's practice. “…We’re excited because we are close to where our game needs to be to give us a chance.”
Jason LaBarbera will start in goal in place of Mike Smith, who has a lower-body injury. He is considered day-to-day. Chad Johnson, whom the team recalled from the American Hockey League on Monday on an emergency basis, will be LaBarbera's backup.
Sharks: San Jose won seven straight games to storm into contention for the No. 4 seed in the West, including victories against Detroit, Minnesota and Vancouver (teams also potentially vying for fourth), but the Sharks have slipped since the streak. They have lost three of four (1-2-1) and are in danger of slipping to the seventh or eighth seed, which would likely mean a first-round matchup with either the Chicago Blackhawks or the Anaheim Ducks.
"We can't get too high, we can't get too low," Head Coach Todd McLellan told reporters. "We've got to play every minute of all 60 as hard as we can. I thought that was probably our downfall [in a 2-1 loss to Dallas on Saturday night]. We probably gave away 13 or 14 minutes of valuable time and it cost us."
Who's hot: Coyotes center Antoine Vermette has scored a goal in each of the past two games and won 22 of 37 face-offs (59.5 percent) in those games Defenseman Keith Yandle has scored nine goals in 41 games. In his last two seasons – both All-Star seasons – Yandle scored 11 goals in 82 games.... San Jose goaltender Antti Niemi has won eight of his past 11 appearances and yielded two goals or fewer in eight of his past 10 starts.
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