By Dave Vest
The Coyotes will try to move back into the Western Conference playoff field tonight when they host the San Jose Sharks at Jobing.com Arena. The puck drops at 7 p.m. (Arizona time).
Phoenix (37-27-13) will enter the game in ninth place in the conference standings but just one point behind eighth-place San Jose, which lost, 3-1, to Anaheim on Wednesday night.
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The Coyotes have five games left in the regular season. Asked how many of those games his team needs to win to qualify for playoffs, Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett said: "We're going to start with one. We'll go from one, and then we'll re-evaluate after one, that's where we're at right now."
Phoenix is 3-1-1 in five games vs. the Sharks this season and has beaten San Jose three times in a row at home.
"Every mistake seems like it's a factor in the game, so we're going to have to play a solid game, and I'm sure they'll think the same thing," Tippett said.
Captain Shane Doan
will be back in the lineup for the Coyotes after serving a three-game suspension handed down by the NHL for a hit on Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn (see PODCASTS
below). The Coyotes posted a 1-1-1 record without Doan, who ranks third on the team with 47 points, in the lineup.
"He still has to be a hard player," Tippett said about Doan's playing style. "He's not going to be the same player if he tiptoes around out there. I certainly don't expect him to do that."
Phoenix hasn’t played since Sunday and the three days off have served them well with regards to injured players. Only forward Taylor Pyatt
(upper-body injury) is not “available for selection” for tonight’s game, according to Tippett.
San Jose (39-28-10) will enter the game less than 24 hours after losing to Anaheim, 3-1, on Wednesday night.
“This doesn't hurt our chances,” Sharks forward Joe Pavelski told reporters after the loss. “We're still coming. We got five games coming and the next game's going to be big. We’ve got to win. It's a setback, but we want to take a step forward and get where we were. We got to keep moving forward and we missed a chance.”
With a win tonight, the Sharks can move back atop the Pacific Division and grab third place in the conference, while a loss would have them once again outside of the top eight.
Sharks center Joe Thornton ranks fourth in the NHL with 56 assists and 13th with 72 points. Per usual, he has been a key contributor to a power-play unit that is third in the League at 20.5 percent.