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Coyotes-Sharks Preview @NHL
Coyotes-Sharks Preview

GAME: Phoenix Coyotes (9-10-2) at San Jose Sharks (8-8-2).

TIME: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. EST.

The San Jose Sharks' struggles on special teams have contributed to four straight losses.

San Jose hopes to start solving some of those problems in a Pacific Division matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes at HP Pavilion.

The Sharks are coming off a 3-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night, failing to score in eight power-play chances while giving up two power-play goals and a short-handed tally.

"Special teams let us down," San Jose defenseman Kyle McLaren said. "You have to thrive on special teams, and we didn't do it. It's inexcusable to get off the way we're playing in the first period, and it's costing us points."

During their four-game slide, the Sharks are 1-for-28 with the man advantage. Conversely, they have allowed opponents to capitalize on 6 of 18 chances.

"The special teams (woes) are what you see, but it's what's leading up to it," said Sharks coach Ron Wilson, who particularly criticized the passing of defenseman Brad Stuart. "Why did we make the plays leading up to when we committed the penalties? ... Then it's a downer to have a power play and turn over the puck and make bad decisions."

Center Marcel Goc scored San Jose's only goal on a 2-on-1 break with Josh Langfeld. The Sharks have only scored seven goals in the last five games, with three coming from Goc.

Left wing Scott Thornton, who missed five games with a groin injury, returned to San Jose's lineup against Vancouver and backup goalie Vesa Toskala (groin) was put back on injured reserve.

Phoenix is looking for special teams' improvement as well. The Coyotes fell 3-1 to the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday night to complete a 1-2-0 homestand.

Right wing Mike Johnson scored Phoenix's only goal on a power play, but that was just the Coyotes' second goal in 22 opportunities with the man advantage over the last five games.

"It's a hit or miss thing," said Johnson, who played in his 500th career game. "When we get hold of the puck, we need to do a better job of getting the puck into the zone and getting set up. It's really hot and cold and needs to get better."

Defenseman Paul Mara, tied for second on the team with 15 points, assisted on Johnson's goal for his first point in five games. The Coyotes are having trouble getting their offense going and have been outshot 221-151 in their last six games.

This is the first of eight meetings between these teams this season. After facing Phoenix, San Jose will play six of its next seven games on the road.

STANDINGS (through Nov. 18): Coyotes - 20 points, 3rd place, 7 PB, Pacific Division. Sharks - 18 points, 4th place (tied), 9 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Coyotes - Mike Leclerc, 8 goals; Mara, 12 assists; Ladislav Nagy, 16 points; Keith Ballard, 42 PIM. Sharks - Patrick Marleau and Jonathan Cheechoo, 7 goals; Marleau, 10 assists and 17 points; Mark Smith, 32 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Nov. 19): Coyotes - Power play: 18.8 percent (25 for 133), 13th (tied) in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.6 percent (96 for 119), 21st (tied). Sharks - Power play: 12.5 percent (15 for 120), 27th. Penalty killing: 80.4 percent (74 for 92), 23rd.

GOALTENDERS: Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (8-6-0, 2 SO, 2.24 GAA); David Leneveu (1-4-2, 3.10). Sharks - Evgeni Nabokov (3-3-2, 3.27); Nolan Schaefer (5-1-0, 1, 1.94).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Sharks, 4-1-1-0.

LAST MEETING: March 26, 2004; Sharks, 3-0. At Phoenix, Vincent Damphousse had a goal and an assist and Toskala made 30 saves.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Coyotes - 4-6-1 on the road; Sharks - 4-2-1 at home.

Associated Press
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