By Dave Vest
SAN JOSE – The Coyotes will attempt to halt a two-game losing streak Monday night when they play the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion. The puck drops at 7:30 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (2-2-0) has scored just once in its past two games – losses at Buffalo on Thursday and at home vs. Columbus on Saturday.
“They’re a good group of guys and they want to do well,” Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said of his players, who may be holding the sticks just a bit too tight since beating Pittsburgh last week. “They want to play hard and they want to do things right. It’s disappointing when they don’t. There is a little bit of fear of failure, I think, but we’ve just got to get past that.”
The Coyotes have been struggling on the power play this season having scored just four goals on 22 chances. That won’t cut it against the Sharks, who already boast five players with at least five points.
Tonight’s game will be Phoenix’s fourth game in the past six nights.
“It’s a grind,” Tippett said. “At the start of the season we knew this was going to be a grind with four games in six days … We’ve got to go in there and play a solid road game and find ways to get points.”
San Jose (3-2-0) has won three of its past four games after losing its season opener at Columbus. The Sharks are averaging 4.5 goals per game in those four games.
Coyotes goalie Ilya Bryzgalov has allowed just four goals in his three starts this season and his goals-against average is 1.34. The latter stat ranks fifth best in the NHL. Only one of the four goals he has allowed has come at even-strength.
Sharks center Patrick Marleau has scored three goals in his past two games and has five goals in San Jose’s first five games. Marleau, however, usually struggles vs. Phoenix. In his past 16 games vs. the Coyotes, he has scored just once.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan has yet to score a goal this season, nor did he score a goal in four preseason games. Notoriously a slow starter, Phoenix will need their leader to snap out of his slump soon.
Perhaps Coyotes center Matthew Lombardi should shoot the puck more. Lombardi has taken six shots on goal this season and two of them have gone in the net.
Coyotes defenseman Zbynek Michalek used to love playing against the Sharks because it enabled him to visit with his younger brother Milan, a forward who used to play for San Jose. Milan Michalek was traded to Ottawa before the season started in the deal that brought Dany Heatley to the Sharks.
"I think we've done pretty good the last few games playing good defensively. We've got to keep that going."