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by Staff Writer / Arizona Coyotes

Phoenix at San Jose
PhoenixSan Jose

Coyotes-Sharks Preview

GAME: Phoenix Coyotes (18-17-2) at San Jose Sharks (15-15-5).

TIME: Wednesday, 10:30 p.m. EST.

After playing arguably their most undisciplined game of the season, the San Jose Sharks hope to end their worst stretch in a month when they host the Phoenix Coyotes.

The Sharks allowed three power-play goals in a 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday.

San Jose was shorthanded nine times, tying a season worst, and finished with 23 penalty minutes. The Sharks had been shorthanded a league-low 164 times entering Monday, averaging just 12.8 penalty minutes.

San Jose also was shorthanded nine times Dec. 20 against Anaheim and gave up two power-play goals, but Jonathan Cheechoo's hat trick helped the Sharks to a 4-2 victory.

Cheechoo scored a pair of power-play goals Monday, but the Sharks lost for the fourth time in five games after winning six straight following the acquisition of center Joe Thornton from the Boston Bruins. The winning streak followed a four-game skid from Nov. 23-30.

In an effort to jump start an offense that has scored five goals in the last three games, Sharks coach Ron Wilson said he will put Nils Ekman on a new line with Thornton and Cheechoo.

"(Ekman) is a great player who will fit in just fine with our line," Thornton said. "It's good to change things up once in a while. It is always a spark when you change lines. Usually it works out pretty good."

Cheechoo, the team leader with 18 goals, has eight in his last seven games.

Sharks defenseman Kyle McLaren returned to the lineup Monday after missing five games following arthroscopic knee surgery.

Phoenix lost 7-4 to the Colorado Avalanche on Monday after scoring the game's first three goals.

The Coyotes fell to 2-3-0 under assistant Rick Tocchet, who took over Dec. 17 when Wayne Gretzky put his coaching career on hold after his mother's health worsened. She died of lung cancer two days later in Brantford, Ontario. The Coyotes haven't said when Gretzky will return.

Right wing Shane Doan scored two goals Monday, but couldn't prevent his team from its fifth loss in seven games.

"You learn that you don't sit on leads," Doan said.

STANDINGS (through Dec. 26): Coyotes - 38 points, 3rd place (tied), 9 PB, Pacific Division. Sharks - 35 points, 5th place, 12 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Coyotes - Mike Comrie, 13 goals; Ladislav Nagy, 25 assists and 37 points; Sean O'Donnell, 71 PIM. Sharks - Cheechoo, 18 goals; Thornton, 38 assists and 50 points; Mark Smith, 53 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Dec. 26): Coyotes - Power play: 18.0 percent (44 for 244), 14th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.8 percent (189 for 231), 17th. Sharks - Power play: 15.6 percent (33 for 212), 20th. Penalty killing: 81.5 percent (141 for 173), 20th.

GOALTENDERS: Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (15-10-0, 2 SO, 2.47 GAA); Brian Boucher (1-2-0, 2.82). Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (8-10-5, 2.95); Vesa Toskala (2-4-0, 4.47).

SEASON SERIES: Coyotes, 2-0.

LAST MEETING: Thursday; Coyotes, 2-1. At Glendale, Ariz., Joseph stopped 20 of 21 shots, including a late flurry in the closing minutes, to lead Phoenix.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Coyotes - 8-10-1 on the road; Sharks - 9-3-3 at home.

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