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Preview: Coyotes vs. Sharks

Arizona is hosting San Jose on Saturday on a special night of nostalgia at Gila River Arena

by Dave Vest @davest4yotes / Coyotes Sr. Director of News Content

GLENDALE -- The original Coyotes will be saluted on Saturday night before the present-day team hosts San Jose at Gila River Arena. The puck drops immediately after a pre-game ceremony that starts at 6 p.m.

Members of the 1996-97 Phoenix Coyotes, including former captains Keith Tkachuk and Teppo Numminen, will be among those players attending the game against the Sharks, the first team the Coyotes hosted in their inaugural season in Arizona 20 years ago.

Arizona (20-29-7) will enter the game as one of the hottest teams in the NHL having won seven of its past 11 games (7-3-1). The Coyotes, who will wear their original black Kachina-style sweaters, have beaten the Sharks three out of four times this season. All four games were decided by one goal. 

"We've had great goaltending in each of the games," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "They are a team that generates a lot of chances. The games have been tight, overtimes and shootouts, and we've found a way to win."

Video: Dave Tippett previews Saturday's game vs. Sharks

Mike Smith will start between the pipes after stopping 41 of 44 shots vs. the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday to key a 5-3 victory. Smith has excelled vs. San Jose in his career; he's 12-7-3 with a 2.08 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage, and he has posted four of his 32 NHL shutouts against the Sharks.

Defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson will enter the game with a five-game point streak (six assists). Forward Radim Vrbata is right behind him with a four-game point streak (four assists).

Center Martin Hanzal and winger Tobias Rieder have combined to score 18 goals at Gila River Arena this season. Both players have tallied nine on home ice.

Forward Jamie McGinn will return to the lineup after being a healthy scratch on Thursday at LA. Meanwhile, defenseman Jakob Chychrun will play after being scratched for the past four games. 

Rookie Lawson Crouse and backup goalie Louis Domingue are nursing lower-body injuries and neither will dress for this game.

The Coyotes played the Sharks in the former's first home game in Arizona on Oct. 10, 1996. Phoenix won, 4-1, in a match played in downtown Phoenix at what was called America West Arena at the time. It's now called Talking Stick Resort Arena.

Shane Doan competed in that game and scored one of Phoenix's four goals. The other goal scorers that night were Kris King, Mike Gartner and Craig Janney.

Video: Shane Doan previews Saturday's game vs. Sharks

San Jose (34-18-6) has won just two of seven games played in February, but has earned at least one point in six of those games. Despite the mini-slump, the Sharks will enter the game atop the Pacific Division standings with 74 points.

Defenseman Brent Burns leads the team and ranks 11th in the NHL with 25 goals. He's also third in the League with 61 points - five behind leader Connor McDavid. No defenseman has led the NHL in points since Bobby Orr did so in 1974-75.

"I don't even know if you call him a defenseman anymore. He's like a middle rover," Tippett said. "He's a heck of a player. He's all over the ice and he has an impact in every area he plays."

Captain Joe Pavelski has scored 28 of his 286 NHL goals against the Coyotes. That's 9.8 percent. He's scored 20 goals this season, including two on Wednesday in a 6-5 overtime loss to Florida.

Per NHL.com, backup Aaron Dell will play after Martin Jones allowed six goals on 22 shots to Florida on Wednesday. 

Former Coyotes forward Mikkel Boedker has produced six goals and 13 assists in his first season with the Sharks, but he has tallied zero points in his past four games.

Video: Radim Vrbata previews Saturday's game vs. Sharks

OFFICIAL GAME NOTES

BROADCAST INFO:

TV: FOX Sports Arizona 

Radio: Arizona Sports 98.7 FM

COYOTES PROJECTED LINEUP VS. SHARKS:

Forwards

Domi - Hanzal - Vrbata

Perlini - Dvorak - Doan

Rieder - Burmistrov - Jooris

McGinn - Martinook - White

Defensemen

Ekman-Larsson - Schenn

Goligoski - Stone

Chychrun - Murphy

Goalies

Smith

Langhamer

 

 

 

 

 

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