SHARKS (50-22-9) at COYOTES (36-29-15)
Season series: The San Jose Sharks are 2-0-1 in their first three games against the Phoenix Coyotes, including a 4-3 shootout victory at Jobing.com Arena on Dec. 27.
Big story: The Coyotes had hoped this would be a big game and that a victory would give them the chance to lock up the second wild-card position in the Western Conference by beating the Dallas Stars at home Sunday. Instead, the Coyotes lost 2-0 on the road to the Nashville Predators on Thursday and saw their hopes of making the Stanley Cup Playoffs end when the Stars beat the St. Louis Blues 3-0 on Friday.
Coyotes: Phoenix is concluding its 2013-14 regular season with a home back-to-back set against San Jose and Dallas. This marks the first time in franchise history that the team will close the regular season with back-to-back games at home.
"We've been a pretty good home team this year and we have to use that as an advantage to the best of our ability," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "You've got to go out there, play games and play well. We're going to put some young players in and give them some experience. It's very disappointing, the situation that we're in. We're going to have to go out there and try to get better."
The Coyotes have lost six games in a row and have scored just seven goals during its 0-3-3 slide.
"The offense really dried up these last few weeks, which is really concerning," Tippett said. "You have to earn the right to be the playoff team. Dallas got the job done and we just didn't."
Rookie goalie Mark Visentin, 21, will make his NHL debut. Visentin has played in 44 games for Phoenix's American Hockey League affiliate this season as a second-year pro. The Coyotes selected him in the first round (27th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He will be the youngest Coyotes goalie to start a game since Robert Esche (21) on March 2, 1999.
“He has a great attitude and works hard," Tippett said of Visentin. "He’s a top prospect in our organization. He has prepared well and I think he’ll get in there and play well for us.”
Phoenix owns the top power-play unit in the Western Conference (20.3 percent) and its 56 power-play goals are the most the team has scored in a season since the 2007-08 campaign (63).
Sharks: San Jose, which beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-1 at home Friday, is playing its regular-season finale; they begin the playoffs against the Los Angeles Kings next week. The Sharks had about as good a regular-season home finale as any team could ask. Marty Havlat had his sixth career hat trick in a 5-1 rout of the Avalanche.
The Sharks are locked into a first-round series against the Kings, so the game against the Coyotes is a tuneup. That doesn't mean Head Coach Todd McLellan is taking it lightly.
"I still have concerns going into tomorrow's game," he said after watching his team rout Colorado. "It's at the end of the year when your minds are almost moving on to play against L.A., then you still have to play in these games. I thought we did a good job of staying engaged for most of the game. It was a little more physical than I thought it might be for both teams, but that was fine. It kept us involved and kept us going."
Who's hot: Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle has assists in two of his past three games and leads the team in scoring with 53 points... Sharks center Joe Pavelski has four points in his past five games and leads San Jose with 39 goals.
Injury report: Phoenix is still without starting goaltender Mike Smith (lower body), defenseman David Schlemko (lower body) and center Martin Hanzal (lower body)... The good news for the Sharks was that rookie forward Tomas Hertl returned Friday from a knee injury. San Jose is still without forwards Raffi Torres (knee) and Adam Burish (hand). Defenseman Scott Hannan left the game Friday in the first period after taking an elbow to the head. …
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