By Dave Vest
GLENDALE – The year 2009 will expire tonight, but the Coyotes are hoping to extend their winning ways on home ice when they host the San Jose Sharks at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 5 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (25-13-3) has won 10 consecutive home games – a franchise record. To bump the streak to 11, the Coyotes will have to defeat the team that leads the Western Conference with 57 points.
"I feel good for the guys, players like (Shane) Doan and (Ed) Jovanovski," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said about the home winning streak. "These guys have put a lot of time and hard effort into this. Our whole group has."
The Coyotes have beaten San Jose twice in three tries this season. The Sharks’ lone win vs. Phoenix came Monday at the HP Pavilion. All three games between these teams have been decided by one goal. Two games, including Monday’s, were decided in shootouts.
“Both teams compete very hard against each other,” Tippett said. “Time and space is very limited out there and you have to be willing to jump into these games hard if you’re going to be successful. That’s the way all three of these games have gone and I anticipate the next one going the exact same way.”
Ilya Bryzgalov will be back in goal for the Coyotes after taking a break on Tuesday vs. Vancouver. Bryzgalov enters the game ranked first in the NHL in shutouts (five), second in goals-against average (2.01), and tied for second in victories (22).
The Coyotes are hoping the Sharks will be fatigued and out of sync after beating Washington 5-2 at home on Wednesday night and then flying to Phoenix for a game that will start three and a half hours earlier than what San Jose is used to. In Wednesday’s victory, the Sharks became the first team to convert two penalty shots in the same game since Feb. 11, 1982.
San Jose (25-8-7) hasn’t lost since falling to the Coyotes, 2-1, in Glendale on Dec. 12, a span of six games. Backup goalie Thomas Greiss played for San Jose in that game and will play again tonight.
Coyotes defenseman Ed Jovanovski has notched a goal and two assists in the past two games, and has been making bone-crushing checks on defense.
Sharks center Joe Pavelski is averaging a point per game over the past six games. He scored two goals on Wednesday night in a 5-2 win over Washington.
The Coyotes are hoping center Vernon Fiddler and defenseman Jim Vandermeer can return to the lineup tonight. Fiddler is nursing a lower-body injury and Vandermeer is nursing an upper-body injury.
The Coyotes are 10-2-2 in December. The franchise last won 11 games in one month in January of 1987 as the Winnipeg Jets.
Five members of the Sharks learned Wednesday they are headed to the Olympics: Canadians Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Dan Boyle, and German Thomas Greiss.
"We’re just halfway through (the season), and there is a lot of hockey left and anything can still happen. We just have to keep working hard."