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Though they still have one of the best records in the NHL, the San Jose Sharks have shown signs of vulnerability lately.
Getting back on track could be a challenge against a Phoenix Coyotes team that's made a recent habit of exposing the weaknesses of Western Conference contenders.
The Sharks look to avoid a third straight defeat and continue their home dominance of the Coyotes when the Pacific Division rivals meet Saturday night.
San Jose (48-15-11) has already clinched its second consecutive Pacific Division title with 107 points, one shy of the franchise record it set last season.
The Sharks, though, haven't looked like a dominant team in their last two games. They lost 6-5 in a shootout at Chicago on Wednesday night before falling 3-2 at Nashville on Thursday night. They blew a two-goal lead by giving up three within a 2:38 stretch in the second period against the Predators.
San Jose converted two of its four power-play opportunities in that game but didn't get an even strength goal. Though the Sharks rank among the league leaders with 235 total goals, they're in the bottom half with 145 at even strength.
"We didn't score a goal 5-on-5, and that's obviously been one of the big problems the last few months," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "We need to show more poise and patience with the puck."
The Sharks have eight games remaining before they hit the playoffs as one of the favorites to win the West, alongside Detroit.
"There's not much time left to fine tune this thing," Boyle said. "We obviously need to play better hockey, and it hasn't been good enough consistently."
It wasn't good enough last Tuesday in Phoenix, where the Sharks lost 4-3 to the Coyotes, who had gone 0-4-1 in their previous five games. Phoenix winger Shane Doan scored the game-winner with 26.9 seconds remaining after recording an assist on each of the team's first three goals.
Starting with that win over San Jose, Phoenix (31-36-7) has gone 3-1-1 in its last five. Its other two wins in that stretch came over playoff hopefuls Vancouver and Edmonton.
"How this team is responding is real positive," coach Wayne Gretzky said after a 3-2 win over the Oilers on Thursday night. "I thought against Vancouver was a good effort, and again tonight was an equally good effort. I'm really happy the way our young guys are progressing."
Gretzky's club, last in the Pacific with 69 points, has split its four meetings with San Jose this season. The Sharks, though, have outscored the Coyotes 25-8 while going 6-0-1 in the teams' last seven meetings at HP Pavilion, where they're 30-3-4 this season.
Phoenix's road struggles aren't limited to San Jose. It's 3-9-1 away from home since the All-Star break, including 0-4-1 in its last five.
The Coyotes' recent hot streak, however, has them feeling good about a strong finish regardless of where they're playing.
"I just want to make sure we get some wins here," defenseman Ken Klee told the team's official Web site. "We are trying to build some confidence and momentum going here where we feel good about this team and the guys in the room, and the best way to do it is to get wins."