By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will attempt to clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight when they host the San Jose Sharks at Jobing.com Arena in the first game of a home-and-home series. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (42-25-13) will enter the game in sixth place in the Western Conference standings with 97 points. If they earn one more point they will clinch a playoff berth for a second consecutive season.
"We still control our own destiny to make the playoffs," Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "We've got to play a very good team, and we've got to play a strong game. Everything's right in front of us - it's for us to go take."
Phoenix, which has played three consecutive shootouts, will be looking to snap an eight-game winless streak (0-5-3) vs. San Jose dating to the 2009-10 season.
"We haven't had the success against them we wanted to this year, but that just makes the challenge sweeter," Tippett said.
The Coyotes also could secure a playoff berth tonight if the Dallas Stars lose to the Colorado Avalanche - in regulation, overtime or a shootout - or beat the Avs in a shootout.That game begins an hour before the Coyotes vs. Sharks game.
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Phoenix may enter this game at full-strength. Tippett said center Martin Hanzal, who has missed the past 13 games because of a lower-body injury, would be a game-time decision.
will be in goal for the Coyotes seeking his 130th victory with the team. Should he earn it tonight, Bryzgalov would pass Bob Essensa and take over sole possession of the top spot on the franchise's all-time victories list for goalies.
The Coyotes are the only NHL team without a 20-goal scorer. Captain Shane Doan
and winger Lee Stempniak
are tied for the team lead with 19.
|Photo by Getty Images.
The Sharks (47-24-9) will enter the game in second place in the Western Conference standings, one point ahead of third-place Detroit.
San Jose will be looking to rebound from a 6-2 loss to Anaheim on Wednesday, its first regulation loss since March 14.
Goalie Antti Niemi, who had made 34 consecutive starts before getting the night off on Wednesday, is expected to be back in net for the Sharks tonight. Niemi is 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average against the Coyotes this season and 4-0-1 with a 1.97 GAA in his career.
Sharks captain Joe Thornton will enter the game with 999 career points.
"They're a real good team, and so are we," Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker
said. "We can play with the best, and that's what we've got to show the last two games... We know what we have to do and what we have to work on, and I think we're ready for it."