By Dave Vest
After three consecutive days of practice, the Coyotes will play the first of three games in four nights tonight when they host the San Jose Sharks at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 6 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (22-21-8) last played on Tuesday when it dropped a 4-1 decision to Anaheim on home ice. Three days of intense workouts followed.
“I think it's important,” Coyotes goalie Mike Smith
said. “We haven't had a lot of time to practice the last couple months. When you play a lot, sometimes you start doing things that you wouldn't normally do if you were practicing a lot, so it was nice to get on the ice, get a few days of practice in, work on some things, get back to the fundamentals of the game and be ready to go.”
Smith, whom Head Coach Dave Tippett pulled after giving up three goals on 18 shots in Tuesday’s loss, will be back in goal for the Coyotes. Smith stopped all 31 shots he faced the last time these teams played on Nov. 12 at HP Pavilion. Phoenix won that game, 3-0, but has won just two of the last eight games between these teams.
Center Daymond Langkow
, who left Tuesday’s game after getting hit in the face by a puck, is “available for selection” for tonight’s game, according to Tippett. So is defenseman Derek Morris
, who has been nursing a lower-body injury.
The Coyotes will need a healthy roster if they’re going to make a run at catching first-place San Jose in the race for the Pacific Division title; the Sharks lead the Coyotes by 12 points with two months left in the regular season.
Tippett said his players must be all in tonight or they have no chance to win.
“There can be nothing left in the bag,” Tippett said. “I remember looking around at guys after the win in San Jose (on Nov. 12). You had guys put a lot of effort into that game to get that result.”
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Smith agreed and took it one step further.
“We have to compete hard every night,” Smith said. “We have to play every game like it’s a playoff game. It’s going to be a tough road, but I think we have the guys in here who can do it.”
|Photo by Getty Images.
San Jose (29-14-6) will enter the game riding a three-game winning streak.
Sharks No. 1 goaltender Antti Niemi, who missed Thursday’s game at Dallas because of a minor injury, is expected to be in the lineup tonight.
The Sharks have been clicking on the power play lately with five goals in their past 13 chances.
Left wing Ryane Clowe provided the spark in a 5-2 win at Dallas on Thursday by scoring a goal in his first game back after missing the previous six games with a facial fracture.
Center Joe Pavelski has had success playing the Coyotes lately with six goals in his last six games versus Phoenix.