By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will try to catch Pacific Division-leading San Jose tonight when they host the Sharks at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (41-24-11), which has gone 8-1-1 in its past 10 games, will enter the game in fourth place in the Western Conference standings just two points behind San Jose.
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The Coyotes will be looking to build on consecutive victories over St. Louis and Columbus, and to snap a seven-game winless streak vs. the Sharks.
"They play a good style of hockey that obviously we have a tough time against,” Coyotes defenseman Adrian Aucoin
said. “They have some defensemen that are very active and they are a good puck possession team. We just have to manage the puck better ourselves."
, who posted a 28-save shutout vs. Columbus on Thursday, will start in goal for the Coyotes.
Phoenix will attempt to reverse a recent trend and start the game strong; the Coyotes have scored zero goals in the first period of their past four games, and are averaging just 6.5 shots in those periods.
“We've got to have a good start and play a full 60 minutes because if we don't play a full 60 minutes against these guys they're going to give it to you,” said defenseman Keith Yandle
, who ranks second among NHL defensemen with 58 points.
The Coyotes again will play minus center Martin Hanzal
(lower-body injury) and defenseman Ed Jovanovski
(upper-body injury). They will also play without forwards Lauri Korpikoski
and Vernon Fiddler
, who were injured in Thursday’s game vs. the Blue Jackets. Fiddler is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Korpikoski is day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
|Photo by Getty Images.
San Jose (43-23-9) has posted a 22-4-4 record in its past 30 games but has failed to leave the Coyotes far behind in the standings.
"You would think with the kind of record we've had since (mid-January), we'd be running away with the division," forward Ryane Clowe told the Mercury News. "You wonder what you've got to do to open up some ground. But this is what we can do -- beat them.”
The Sharks have scored 26 goals in the past six games, including six twice and five once. San Jose has outscored the Coyotes 13-6 in three games this season, including 5-3 on Feb. 1 in a game Phoenix led 3-0.
While the Sharks rank third in the NHL in power-play efficiency at 23.4 percent, their penalty killing is 24th in the League at 79.8 percent.
Left wing Patrick Marleau leads San Jose with 33 goals. Only six other NHLers have lit the lamp more this season. Meanwhile, center Logan Couture is second among NHL rookies with 50 points, including 28 goals.
Goalie Antti Niemi has made 30 straight starts, going 21-4-4 with a 2.19 goals-against average and three shutouts.