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Coyotes and Sharks both look to bounce back

by Mike Battaglino

COYOTES (4-5-2) at SHARKS (7-2-1)

TV: NHLN-US, FS-Arizona, CSN-California

Last 10: Phoenix 4-4-2; San Jose 7-2-1

Season series: This is the second of five meetings. On Jan. 24, the Coyotes led 3-1 in the third period, but the Sharks tied the game before Patrick Marleau scored with 1:53 remaining to take a 4-3 lead in their 5-3 victory. It was Marleau's third straight multigoal game to open the season.

"We had the game under control and we just gave it away," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said then.

Big story: Each team is coming off a discouraging loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The Sharks led 2-0 but lost 5-3 to the Western Conference leaders at home on Tuesday, their third straight defeat after opening with a seven-game win streak.

The Coyotes' loss to the Blackhawks on Thursday was particularly disheartening - playing at home after two straight wins, they fell behind 4-0 in the first period on the way to a 6-2 drubbing.

"This is a good slap in the face right here," coach Dave Tippett said. "We just went out there and we just got kicked. If we don't recognize that, then we've got bigger problems than I think we've got."

Team Scope:

Coyotes: In four wins, Phoenix has allowed two goals total. In seven losses, it has allowed 31. The Coyotes gave nine power plays to the Blackhawks, who cashed in twice on 5-on-3s in the first period.

"Tomorrow's going to be a day of accountability, I'm sure," Doan said Thursday.

Goalie Mike Smith, who has made four straight starts since coming back from a groin injury, was pulled Thursday. He has a goals-against average of 3.63 and a save percentage of .863. Last season, those numbers were 2.21 and .930.

Sharks: The team welcomed a three-day break that let them practice on the ice what they had only been able to address by video.

San Jose is hopeful the work will revive its power play, which is 1-for-21 after starting the season 12-for-32.

"Early on, the power play was going, now it's kind of a little bit stale," captain Joe Thornton said Thursday after a 75-minute practice. "We were working on that. That'll get us going again."

Thornton had 14 points in the first six games but has none in the past four; same for Marleau.

Perhaps the respite, coming after the Sharks played five games in eight days, will help.

"We'll have to wait and see on Saturday, but I hope we get some rest and get a couple days of practice in," Thornton said. "Ask me Saturday night after the game and I'll tell you if it worked out or not."

Who's hot: Coyotes forward Radim Vrbata has at least a point in seven of the past eight games, and 11 in 11 games total. Seven have been on the power play. … The Sharks have killed off 31 straight power plays. … Forward Michal Handzus had a goal and an assist Tuesday, his first points of the season.

Injury report: The Coyotes have been without defensemen Rostislav Klesla (lower body) and David Schlemko (upper body), though both are close to returning. Center Matthew Lombardi (upper body) is still at least a couple of weeks from playing again. … San Jose is without defenseman Brent Burns (lower body), though he could return as early as Saturday. Center Andrew Desjardins missed Friday's practice due to illness.

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