The Phoenix Coyotes may lead the NHL in road losses this season, but they have been better away from home lately and now visit a city where they have done very well in recent years.
The Coyotes go for their fifth straight win against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion when the Pacific Division rivals meet Monday for the second time this season.
Since losing nine of its first 10 road games, Phoenix (11-16-1) has won two of its last three. No team has reached double digits in road losses besides the Coyotes, who are averaging 1.85 goals per game away from home to rank second-worst in the league behind Florida (1.81).
The Coyotes have had no such scoring problems at San Jose (21-9-0), totaling 18 goals in winning four straight trips there. They've lost only once in their last nine visits to HP Pavilion.
This Sharks team, however, has been very tough at home with a 10-3-0 record, thanks in part to strong special teams play. San Jose has converted 21.4 percent (15-of-70) of its power-play opportunities at home this season while thwarting 55 of 58 opponents' chances (94.8 percent).
Jonathan Cheechoo scored one of his two goals on the extra-man advantage Saturday, leading the Sharks to a 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators. He also had an assist for his second three-point performance of the season.
The NHL's leading scorer in 2005-06 has notched goals in back-to-back games for the first time this season. Cheechoo will try to continue that push versus the Coyotes, having totaled five goals and five assists in the last seven meetings.
"He makes it look easy sometimes," said center Joe Thornton, who had three assists Saturday and leads the Sharks with 32 points. "If you get Cheech the puck, good things will happen."
San Jose's goaltending duo of Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala has been making good things happen all season, combining for a 2.17 goals-against average - one of the league's best marks. After Nabokov stopped 20 shots on Saturday, Toskala will likely get the nod Monday.
Toskala is 5-1-1 with a 2.20 GAA in nine career games against the Coyotes, tied for his most wins against any opponent. He hopes to rebound from a shaky outing in his last start, allowing a season-high five goals in a 5-2 loss to Colorado on Thursday.
The Coyotes got a strong 40-save performance from newly acquired netminder Mikael Tellqvist at home on Saturday, but a bad bounce resulted in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars. Tellqvist made the initial stop on a goal mouth scramble with time running out in overtime, but the rebounded puck flew up and bounced twice off the goaltender before sliding off the back of his neck into the net for the game-winner with 4.6 seconds left.
Mike Zigomanis had forced overtime with a power-play goal in the third period for the Coyotes, who are 4-1-1 in their last six games.
"It was nice to battle back," said Phoenix defenseman Ed Jovanovski, who scored for the second straight game. "We felt in the third period this was a very winnable game. (Tellqvist) makes the save and it goes right up over the top of his head. It was just a bad break."
Tellqvist, acquired from Toronto on Nov. 28 for Tyson Nash and a 2007 fourth-round draft pick, has made back-to-back starts for the Coyotes.
Curtis Joseph has struggled to a 7-12-0 record and 3.42 GAA this season, but has not beaten any team more than the Sharks, going 32-8-1 with a 2.12 GAA in 42 starts against them.
San Jose won the first matchup between these teams, 2-1 on Nov. 11.
|Mar 30 '07||PHX 2 at SJS 4||S. Hannan|
|Mar 15 '07||SJS 5 at PHX 1||J. Cheechoo|
|Jan 18 '07||PHX 2 at SJS 5||R. Clowe|
|Jan 13 '07||SJS 4 at PHX 1||R. Clowe|
|Dec 30 '06||SJS 0 at PHX 8||J. Roenick|
|Dec 28 '06||PHX 3 at SJS 2||Y. Perreault|
|Dec 11 '06||PHX 0 at SJS 4||M. Michalek|
|Nov 11 '06||SJS 2 at PHX 1||P. Marleau|