COYOTES (9-3-2) at SHARKS (10-1-2)
Season series: This is the second of four meetings between two of the hottest teams in the League. The San Jose Sharks won the first matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes 4-1 on Oct. 5, with Tomas Hertl scoring the game-winner. The Pacific Division rivals will face off twice more this season, both times in Arizona.
Big story: The Sharks have been a juggernaut since the season started a month ago, but Phoenix comes into San Jose as one of the hottest teams in the League, having won five of its past six games. Since starting 6-0-0, San Jose has gone 4-1-2.
Coyotes: Phoenix has earned at least one point in 10 of its past 11 games, but it's in the past two weeks the team really has hit its stride, winning five of six.
The Coyotes got off to a terrible start against Nashville on Thursday, something that has been a recurring problem this season. Three first-period goals by the Preds put the Coyotes down early, but the rally was keyed by an unlikely source as Jordan Szwarz scored his first NHL goal early in the second to cut into the Nashville lead.
Derek Morris' goal trimmed the deficit further, and after Nashville's Paul Gaustad scored to make it 4-2, Shane Doan and Antoine Vermette scored about two minutes apart to tie the game. In the shootout Coyotes goalie Thomas Greiss was perfect and Mikkel Boedker scored the winner in the fifth round.
The Sharks have outscored their opponents 51-24 this season and they are a perfect 5-0-0 on home ice, including a 4-1 win over Phoenix on Oct. 5.
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett is eager to see how his team responds to that defeat and how it builds on its early success (9-3-2) as the calendar flips to November.
“There’s always a lot of excitement in the game (at San Jose),” Tippett said after Friday’s practice. “They have good, loud fans and obviously they’re a good team. It’s a good challenge going in there and the atmosphere in the building adds to that challenge, but if you can go in there and play well it’s a good feeling.”
Goalie Mike Smith owns a 7-4-1 career record vs. the Sharks with a 2.09 goals-against average and four shutouts. He has shut out the Sharks more than any other opponent in his NHL career.
Center Martin Hanzal, who missed the past two games because of an NHL suspension, will be back in the lineup. Hanzal ranks first on the team in road scoring with six points (three goals, three assists).
Sharks: Despite sustaining their first regulation loss of the season against the Boston Bruins on Oct. 24, San Jose finished 3-1-1 on a five-game trip that ended Wednesday at Staples Center against the Los Angeles Kings.
The Sharks blew three one-goal leads as the Kings tied the game 3-3 on Justin Williams' power-play goal with 7:39 remaining in the third. Los Angeles controlled the pace late in the game, outshooting the Sharks 12-3 in the third period and overtime. Anze Kopitar scored the Kings' second power-play goal of the night midway through OT, putting a one-timer past Antti Niemi for a 4-3 win.
"I don't know if we have a lot of issues," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "We've got some things we need to work on. Some of it is just individuals being sharp and you can't beat teams like that with a few guys that aren't quite there."
Who's hot: Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle has a five-game point streak, during which he has nine points. Doan has five points in a four-game point streak. … Logan Couture has five points in three-game point streak for the Sharks. Center Tommy Wingels has three points in his past two games.
Injury report: Phoenix defenseman Rostislav Klesla (lower body) is on injured reserve; forward Jeff Halpern (upper body) is out. … San Jose forward Raffi Torres (knee surgery) remains on IR. Forwards Adam Burish (back), and Brent Burns (upper body) also are out. Defenseman Dan Boyle, out with an upper-body injury since Oct. 15, told CSNCalifornia.com he's ready to go. Forward Matthew Nieto (hand) is questionable.
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