GLENDALE – So the Coyotes headed out on a brief one-game road trip this afternoon feeling good about the way the played during the month of October and with the knowledge that they’re off to the second best start in the franchise’s 34-year history.
They also left knowing that the team waiting to play them on Saturday just happens to be the San Jose Sharks, the NHL’s top team this season with a record of 10-1-2 in their first 13 games.
The Sharks have outscored their opponents 51-24 this season and they are a perfect 5-0-0 on home ice, including a 4-1 win over Phoenix on Oct. 5.
Coyotes Head Coach Dave Tippett is eager to see how his team responds to that defeat and how it builds on its early success (9-3-2) as the calendar flips to November.
“There’s always a lot of excitement in the game (at San Jose),” Tippett said after Friday’s practice. “They have good, loud fans and obviously they’re a good team. It’s a good challenge going in there and the atmosphere in the building adds to that challenge, but if you can go in there and play well it’s a good feeling.”
The loss to the Sharks on Oct. 5 was a tough pill to swallow for the Coyotes, but lessons were learned. The Coyotes know another slow start like the last time they played San Jose – when they gave up three goals in the first 12:30 - won’t cut it once again.
“The first time there didn’t go even close to as planned and they proved why they’re a first-place team,” captain Shane Doan said. “They established how good they were and how dominant they were. It’s going to be a challenge for us to match their intensity and their energy. They’re playing great hockey.”
Forward Kyle Chipchura is eager for the rematch.
“They come out hard usually and the fans are right on top of you,” Chipchura said. “I have a lot of fun playing there. It seems like the games are fast games and physical games.”
The Coyotes have fared OK at San Jose in recent seasons. They will enter Saturday night’s game with a 2-3-2 record at the newly-renamed SAP Center in their past seven games.
A quick look at the Western Conference standings reveals that the Pacific Division is loaded with strong teams besides San Jose and Phoenix. The Sharks 22 (points), Ducks (21), Coyotes (20), Canucks (19) and Kings (18) rank among the top seven teams in the conference after the first month of the season.
Defenseman Keith Yandle says playing so many games vs. so many good Pacific Division teams is a bonus.
“The goal is to get to the playoffs and if you’re playing these types of games during the season they’ll get you ready for the playoffs,” Yandle said. “… You’ve got to be on top of your game every night, and I think (that's true) in our division more so than maybe some of the others.”