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COYOTES VS. SAN JOSE: GAME PREVIEW

Thursday, 12.22.2005 / 1:32 PM / News
Arizona Coyotes

San Jose at Phoenix
San Jose Phoenix

Sharks-Coyotes Preview

GAME: San Jose Sharks (15-13-4) at Phoenix Coyotes (16-16-2).

TIME: Thursday, 9 p.m. EST.

The addition of Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks has definitely had a positive impact on the play of right wing Jonathan Cheechoo.

Cheechoo will try to build off one of the best performances of his three-year career when the Sharks visit the struggling Phoenix Coyotes.

Cheechoo recorded his first career hat trick Tuesday in San Jose's 4-2 win over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

His first goal came off an assist from Thornton just over two minutes into the contest. He also scored on a penalty shot and added an unassisted tally 30 seconds apart early in the third period.

"That was a lot of fun. I just had to remember to save the right stick. That one's going to my dad," said Cheechoo, a second-round pick in the 1998 draft.

Cheechoo has nine goals in eight games since joining a line with Thornton and Patrick Marleau. Prior to that, he had just one goal in 12 games.

Thornton, who was named Tuesday to the Canadian Olympic team, has scored in all eight games since being acquired last month from the Boston Bruins in a four-player deal, tallying two goals and 13 assists in that span.

Overall, Thornton has five goals and 17 assists in 14 games since being held without a point on Nov. 17.

San Jose also is 7-1-0 since acquiring Thornton.

Phoenix, meanwhile, will try again to give interim head coach Rick Tocchet his first win.

Tocchet fell to 0-2 with a 5-4 loss Tuesday to the St. Louis Blues. Tocchet took over for Wayne Gretzky after his announcement that he was stepping down to be with his mother, Phyllis, who died earlier this week of lung cancer in Brantford, Ontario at the age of 64.

Overall, the Coyotes have dropped a season-high four in a row.

"It's one of those things that you just don't want to let it slide anymore," said Tocchet. "As coaches, you can't put too much pressure on the players because if you do than they squeeze their sticks even more. We have to find a way to bounce back."

Shane Doan, also named Wednesday to the Canadian team, had two assists to snap a four-game points drought. He has just one goal in his last 17 games.

STANDINGS: Sharks - 34 points, 4th place (tied), 9 PB, Pacific Division. Coyotes - 34 points, 4th place (tied), 9 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Cheechoo, 16 goals; Thornton, 37 assists and 49 points; Mark Smith, 53 PIM. Coyotes - Ladislav Nagy and Mike Comrie, 12 goals; Nagy, 22 assists and 34 points; Sean O'Donnell, 67 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Sharks - Power play: 15.7 percent (31 for 197), 19th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.6 percent (129 for 156), 14th (tied). Coyotes - Power play: 18.5 percent (42 for 226), 11th. Penalty killing: 80.4 percent (169 for 210), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (8-8-4, 0 SO, 3.04 GAA); Vesa Toskala (2-4-0, 0, 4.47). Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (14-9-0, 2, 2.44); Brian Boucher (0-2-0, 0, 3.58).

SEASON SERIES: Coyotes, 1-0.

LAST MEETING: Nov. 19; Coyotes 4-3 (SO). At San Jose, Calif., Nagy and Doan scored in the shootout for Phoenix. Tom Priessing had a goal and an assist for the Sharks.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 6-10-2 on the road; Coyotes - 9-7-1 at home.

KEY TO THE GAME:
In order for the Coyotes to be successful against the Sharks, the Coyotes are going to need to control the Sharks top line. The line of Joe Thornton, Scott Thornton, and Jonathan Cheechoo has led the Sharks to victory in each of their previous seven wins. If the Coyotes can control San Jose's top line, a win might be available.

STARTING GOALTENDERS:
Phoenix - Curtis Joseph
San Jose - Evgeni Nabokov

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