SHARKS (22-19-5) at COYOTES (23-13-9)
TV -- NHLN-CA,CSN-CA (HD),FS-A (HD)
Last 10 -- San Jose 3-7-0; Phoenix 7-1-2.
Season series -- The Sharks took the only meeting of the season between Phoenix and San Jose, a 4-1 win at the Tank on Dec. 23, 2010.
Big story -- With only one of six meetings this season behind them and just six points separating the Coyotes and Sharks in the particularly congested Pacific Division, Monday's matinee will be a big opportunity to snag two points between two teams that appear to quickly be going in opposite directions.
Sharks -- San Jose looked like a potent force its last time out, doubling up the Blues Saturday by a 4-2 margin, but looks may be deceiving. Prior to Saturday the Sharks had lost six in a row -- all in regulation -- which could prove to be a devastating blow in the all-too-tight Western Conference. Playing in the League's closest division has only exacerbated the issue, as San Jose has dropped to the Pacific cellar a full 10 points back of first-place Dallas.
Fortunately for San Jose there are some signs the Sharks could be coming out of the fog, most notably Dany Heatley, who has four points in the last two games after having just two in his previous six. Despite their recent play, the Sharks are still just on the outside of the West's top eight with plenty of time to repair their wounds, but with so many teams so close in the standings, it seems almost a given that a perennial contender, quite possibly San Jose, will be spending this spring at home.
Coyotes -- As much as San Jose is struggling, Pheonix is streaking. The Coyotes have won four straight games -- six of their last seven -- to pull within four points of the Stars atop the Pacific, and are yet to suffer a regulation loss in 2011. The current winning streak has been punctuated by a remarkable offensive explosion as Phoenix has lit the lamp 19 times in the last four games. The most impressive outing might have been the most recent, a 6-2 win over Anaheim Saturday powered by a three-point outing by Lee Stempniak.
The Yotes have been boosted by hot streaks from Keith Yandle, who has notched five points in the last three games from the blue line, and Lauri Korpikoski, who has six points in his last four. Perhaps more impressively, the team's recent run hasn't been a one-dimensional performance. Ilya Bryzgalov has won his last four starts while posting a 2.00 goals-against average in that stretch.
Who's hot -- Joe Thornton may be finding his scoring touch after tallying two points for the third straight game Saturday. ... Ray Whitney has lit up the scoresheet for Phoenix lately, tallying six points of his own in the last three games.
Injury report -- The Coyotes announced Sunday that center Vernon Fiddler (upper-body injury) would be out for at least one week and possibly longer. In addition, Ed Jovanovski (lower-body injury) is considered doubtful for Monday, while the recently acquired defenseman Michal Rozsival (bruised ribs) is listed as questionable. San Jose recently lost Torrey Mitchell to a lower-body injury, while Ryane Clowe is considered questionable for undisclosed reasons.
Stat pack -- How cold has San Jose's offense been? The Sharks have only scored 13 goals in eight games this month, an average of 1.625 per game. San Jose's season average is a significantly higher 2.72 goals per game, while their top-seeded squad from a year ago averaged 3.13.
Puck drop -- While the Coyotes are well above the final playoff spot in the West, the tightly-packed standings mean they are far from comfortable. Their play of late has certainly helped, but the Sharks, who desperately need to put together a string of wins, will be looking to cool off things in the dessert. If they're unable to do so, things could start to look bleak in the bay.