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Coyotes, Sharks look to build on wins

by Matthew Mankiewich

COYOTES (14-15-5) at SHARKS (16-11-6)

TV: FS-Arizona+, CSN-California

Last 10: Phoenix 3-5-2, San Jose 5-4-1

Season Series: It's been a split so far, each taking a game at the Shark Tank. They'll play this one in HP Pavilion again then go to Glendale twice in April.

Big story: Now that the Coyotes have blasted their way out of a near-fatal seven-game slump, the object is to string a few more wins together and regain some ground in the Western Conference playoff race. The Sharks are one of the fortunate teams above the cutoff line, and back-to-back shutouts by Antti Niemi have helped keep them there, but there is not much room for error as seven points separate fifth from 13th place in the standings going into Friday's action. This is the third of a crucial seven-game homestand for San Jose.

Team Scope:

Coyotes: With their six-goal first period in a 7-4 win at Nashville on Thursday, not only did the Coyotes tie a franchise record set in 1999 and send Vezina Trophy finalist Pekka Rinne to the bench in less than four minutes, they snapped out of a funk that had seen them score just eight goals during an 0-6-1 slide.

"Whatever it takes; if it takes seven goals to win, that's what we need right now," said Radim Vrbata, who scored two of the six first-period goals. "It was a crazy first period. That's not our style of play. I'm sure that's not theirs either, but we will take whatever we can get."

Sharks: While the Coyotes caught fire offensively Thursday night, Niemi was busy extinguishing Detroit's three-game winning streak. For the third time in his career, he posted a second straight shutout as the Sharks beat the Red Wings 2-0 at HP Pavilion. It was the first time in his career and the first time in franchise history that a goaltender had posted shutouts on successive nights.

"I felt good after last night," said Niemi, who had 27 saves in the win, the Sharks' third straight -- their most since winning seven in a row to open the season. "I thought I was able to be real patient and wait for the pucks and then react. I wasn't cheating or expecting anything else. I was just reading the play. That's a confidence thing for sure."

Who's hot: Coyotes defenseman Rostislav Klesla's four assists in that six-goal first period Thursday ties yet another franchise record for points in a single period and matches his career single-game high. Keith Yandle's goal gave him points in three straight games and four of five, while David Moss' goal also extended his point streak to three games. … Joe Pavelski's goal on Thursday made it three games in a row with at least one. Brent Burns scored the other goal and has a similar three-game goal-scoring streak.

Injury report: Coyotes forward Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) missed the past two games and is day-to-day. Goalie Mike Smith (upper body) sat out in Minnesota and Nashville, but is accompanying the team on the road trip pending a possible return by next week. Defenseman Zbynek Michalek (lower body) skated Monday but may not be ready. … Sharks forward Tim Kennedy (undisclosed) will stay on injured reserve, while goalie Thomas Greiss (neck) will play some games in Worcester of the AHL to get back into playing shape.

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