With a critical home game vs. the San Jose Sharks looming on Saturday night, the Coyotes practiced hard for nearly an hour on Friday afternoon. Afterward, Head Coach Dave Tippett said his team recognizes San Jose is close behind them in the standings and that it would be ready to go when the puck drops at 6 p.m. inside Jobing.com Arena.
|Dave Tippett |
“We’ve talked about these games (vs. San Jose) for a while and how they are going to have huge impacts on the standings,” Tippett said. “The division is very, very tight and we’ve got three games left against them. A week ago when it looked like we were kind of back-and-forth for the division lead Dallas jumped in there and jumped ahead of us. So, both teams will be desperate for points tomorrow night.”
Tippett said the status of center Martin Hanzal
, who left the game vs. Minnesota on Thursday night after suffering an upper-body injury in the first period, is day-to-day.
“He’s a question mark for tomorrow,” Tippett said.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding Hanzal, the Coyotes on Friday recalled center Marc-Antoine Pouliot from the American Hockey League.
Meanwhile, Tippett said the team could get a boost by the return of injured defenseman Rostislav Klesla
“We’ll see where he is in the morning, but I think he has a chance (to play) tomorrow,” Tippett said.
Klesla hasn’t played since suffering an upper-body injury on Feb. 16 after absorbing a hard check by LA Kings captain Dustin Brown. Getting Klesla back in the lineup as soon as possible is key for the Coyotes’ playoff hopes.
“He’s a really solid veteran defenseman that eats up big- time minutes,” Tippett said. “And right now our ‘D,’ those top-four guys, have played a lot of minutes here the last little bit. So, it’ll be good to have him back, and hopefully he can help out our group.” Mike Smith
will be back in goal for the Coyotes against the Sharks on Saturday night. Smith has beaten San Jose twice in a row and has stopped 63 of 66 shots in those two games.
“He’s got to jump back in,” Tippett said of Smith, who hasn’t played since being pulled in the first period vs. Columbus on Tuesday night. “We were able to give him a few days rest here (and Sean Burke) worked with him for a few days, so we expect him to jump in and play a strong game for us tomorrow night.”
The Coyotes, who lead the Sharks by just one point in the Western Conference standings, will play San Jose three times in a 20-day span. Tippett is expecting all three games to be playoff-like.
“They’re a big team,” Tippett said. “They really come hard on the forecheck. They have some top players that can really hurt you if you give them time and space: (Joe) Thornton, (Dan) Boyle, (Patrick) Marleau, (Joe) Pavelski… They’re a good team. They probably haven’t played as well as they would have liked here lately and they’re going to come in here hungry for a win.”