|Phoenix at San Jose|
GAME: Phoenix Coyotes (9-10-2) at San Jose Sharks (8-8-2).
TIME: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. EST.
The San Jose Sharks' struggles on special teams have contributed to four straight losses.
San Jose hopes to start solving some of those problems in a Pacific Division matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes at HP Pavilion.
The Sharks are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night, failing to score in eight power-play chances while giving up two power-play goals and a short-handed tally.
"Special teams let us down," San Jose defenseman Kyle McLaren said. "You have to thrive on special teams, and we didn't do it. It's inexcusable to get off the way we're playing in the first period, and it's costing us points."
During their four-game slide, the Sharks are 1-for-28 with the man advantage. Conversely, they have allowed opponents to capitalize on 6 of 18 chances.
"The special teams (woes) are what you see, but it's what's leading up to it," said Sharks coach Ron Wilson, who particularly criticized the passing of defenseman Brad Stuart. "Why did we make the plays leading up to when we committed the penalties? ... Then it's a downer to have a power play and turn over the puck and make bad decisions."
Center Marcel Goc scored San Jose's only goal on a 2-on-1 break with Josh Langfeld. The Sharks have only scored seven goals in the last five games, with three coming from Goc.
Left wing Scott Thornton, who missed five games with a groin injury, returned to San Jose's lineup against Vancouver and backup goalie Vesa Toskala (groin) was put back on injured reserve.
Phoenix is looking for special teams' improvement as well. The Coyotes fell 3-1 to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night to complete a 1-2-0 homestand.
Right wing Mike Johnson scored Phoenix's only goal on a power play, but that was just the Coyotes' second goal in 22 opportunities with the man advantage over the last five games.
"It's a hit or miss thing," said Johnson, who played in his 500th career game. "When we get hold of the puck, we need to do a better job of getting the puck into the zone and getting set up. It's really hot and cold and needs to get better."
Defenseman Paul Mara, tied for second on the team with 15 points, assisted on Johnson's goal for his first point in five games. The Coyotes are having trouble getting their offense going and have been outshot 221-151 in their last six games.
This is the first of eight meetings between these teams this season. After facing Phoenix, San Jose will play six of its next seven games on the road.
STANDINGS (through Nov. 17): Coyotes - 20 points, 3rd place, 7 PB, Pacific Division. Sharks - 18 points, 4th place (tied), 9 PB, Pacific Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Coyotes - Mike Leclerc, 8 goals; Mara, 12 assists; Ladislav Nagy, 16 points; Keith Ballard, 42 PIM. Sharks - Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo, 7 goals; Marleau, 10 assists and 17 points; Mark Smith, 32 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 17): Coyotes - Power play: 18.8 percent (25 for 133), 14th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.6 percent (96 for 119), 22nd. Sharks - Power play: 12.4 percent (15 for 121), 27th. Penalty killing: 80.6 percent (75 for 93), 23rd.
GOALTENDERS: Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (8-6-0, 2 SO, 2.24 GAA); David Leneveu (1-4-2, 3.10). Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (3-3-2, 3.27); Nolan Schaefer (5-1-0, 1, 1.94).
2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Sharks, 4-1-1-0.
LAST MEETING: March 26, 2004; Sharks, 3-0. At Phoenix, Vincent Damphousse had a goal and an assist and Toskala made 30 saves.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Coyotes - 4-6-1 on the road; Sharks - 4-2-1 at home.
OUTLOOK: On Saturday, the Phoenix Coyotes will travel to Northern California to face the San Jose Sharks in the first meeting of the season between the two clubs.
The Sharks are coming off a 2003-04 season in which they won their second Pacific Division tile and made post season run that took them to Game Six of the Western Conference Finals. Coming into this season San Jose was a popular pick by many to experts to again compete for the Pacific Division crown and an impressive playoff run. However a sting of early injuries have hurt San Jose as they currently reside in last place in the Division.
The good news for the Sharks is that All-Star goaltender Evgeni Nabokov is healthy after missing nearly two weeks with a back injury and while he has yet to register a win since returning to the line up (0-1-1), he does have the ability to steal games, something San Jose will certainly be looking for on Saturday.
KEY TO THE GAME
The key to the game for the Coyotes is to be patience at both ends of the ice. San Jose is a strong first period team and Phoenix will need to play within their system, especially early in the game to keep the Sharks from gaining momentum and jumping out to an early lead. Likewise, the Coyotes will need to be patient in their own zone and force the Sharks to try and get past them rather than being over aggressive and getting caught out of position.
If the Coyotes can weather the first period storm in San Jose and play solid defensive hockey in their own zone, they could certainly return home from San Jose with two points and the start of a new winning streak.
Coyotes forward Tyson Nash continues recover from an abdominal strain and depending on what the specialist he saw on Wednesday finds, Nash could return to the line up as early as next week
"He has been skating pain-free for most of the week and is feeling a lot better," said Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky.
On Thrsday, Petr Nedved again skated with his teammates, playing on a line with captain Shane Doan and Geoff Sanderson. Nedved continues to recover from an elbow injury and barring any setbacks, could be back in the Coyotes line up as early as Sunday, when Phoenix hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets.
"Petr (Nedved) is getting better but he won't play on Saturday," said Gretzky. "Right now, we are hoping to have him ready for Sunday's game."
CUJO ON SATURDAY, LENEVEU SUNDAY (MAYBE)
Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky confirmed that his plan is to start Curtis Joseph in goal on Saturday when Phoenix travels to San Jose and come back with David LeNeveu at home on Sunday against Columbus.
However, Gretzky did leave the possibility open for Joseph playing both games.
"If he (Joseph) gets a shutout on Saturday I will probably come back with him on Sunday," said Gretzky. "I have always been of the belief that you go with the hot goaltender and if a guy gets a shutout he deserves to get the next start."
The Coyotes will be off for the next two nights before traveling to San Jose to face off against the Sharks at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday night. Saturday's game can be seen on WB6 or heard on KDUS-1060 AM, KDKB-93.3 FM or by clicking the "Listen Live" link on the Game Day page at phoenixcoyotes.com.
NEXT HOME GAME
Phoenix will return to Glendale Arena on Sunday to play the Columbus Blue Jackets at 6:00 p.m. The first 10,000 fans at Sunday's gmae receive a free Coyotes mini-helmet. The Coyotes are also offering a kids deal for Sunday's game. Buy one adult ticket for $25.00 and receive a kids ticket for FREE (offer good at Glendale Arena or by calling 480.563.PUCK).
To purchase individual tickets for Sunday's game, click here.