By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The Coyotes will try to again beat the top team in the Western Conference tonight when they host the San Jose Sharks at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (18-11-2), which is in sixth place in the conference standings, beat San Jose, 1-0 in a shootout, exactly two months ago.
Ilya Brygzalov made 26 saves in that game and will again be in goal tonight for the Coyotes, who have won five straight games at home. Bryzgalov has started 11 consecutive games. During that span, he has led the team to a 7-2-2 record while posting a 1.89 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage.
"We want to move up in the standings, and the teams that are above you in the standings - what better way than to beat those teams?" Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "These are big challenges for us, but our players recognize these are teams that we're chasing. That turns into extra incentive."
The Coyotes have not allowed opponents to score more than two goals in seven straight games.
The Sharks (19-7-7) remain atop the conference standings despite having lost four games in a row, including a 3-2 shootout defeat to Dallas on Friday at the HP Pavilion. San Jose managed just one goal in an 11-round shootout.
Goalie Evgeni Nabokov made 42 saves in the loss. Should Head Coach Todd McClellan rest Nabokov tonight, rookie Thomas Greiss (3-2-0, 2.94 goals-against average) would play for the first time since Dec. 1.
Coyotes right wing Scottie Upshall, the sixth overall pick of the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, has scored a goal in two straight games and leads the team with nine.
Sharks center Joe Thornton leads the NHL with 43 points. He has notched 21 of those, including 18 assists, in the past 13 games.
The Coyotes again will play minus defenseman Ed Jovanovski, whom the NHL suspended for two games on Wednesday for his hit on Minnesota's Andrew Ebbett in Monday's game.
San Jose's top line of Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley have combined for 113 points in 33 games. The Coyotes, however, held the trio pointless in the first game between the teams on Oct. 12.
The Coyotes are seeking their 12th home victory of the season. Last season, Phoenix didn't win its 12th home game until Dec. 31.
"We want to shut them down. The best way is to just make them play in their own end."