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Coyotes-Sharks Preview @NHLdotcom

GAME: Phoenix Coyotes (35-34-4) at San Jose Sharks (36-26-10).

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

The San Jose Sharks look to get on track when they play the second of back-to-back home games against a Phoenix Coyotes team they've struggled to beat all season.

San Jose moved to within striking distance of the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference with an 8-1-1 surge from March 9-26. But after moving up to the ninth spot in the West, the Sharks have lost ground in the race with a loss Tuesday at Columbus and Thursday's 5-2 defeat to Phoenix.

San Jose has struggled against Phoenix all season, losing five of six matchups. The Coyotes broke a third-period tie Thursday with unanswered goals from Steve Reinprecht, Mike Johnson and Mike Comrie.

"They were really important points tonight, and we let them slip away," Sharks defenseman Scott Hannan said. "We've got to come out with more intensity from the first shift."

The Sharks have 10 games left to catch at least one of five teams above them in a tight race for the final playoff berths in the West. Four of those contests are against Colorado, Anaheim and Vancouver - who are ahead of San Jose - and two are with Los Angeles, which is a point behind the Sharks in the conference.

The Coyotes have allowed the first goal in four of six meetings with the Sharks this season, including Thursday, but have bounced back to win three of those contests.

"How do you figure it?" Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky asked. "There's really no way to put a finger on it, but we've had a couple of games where our goaltenders stole a couple of wins for us, and we've had other games where we played well, but I don't have an answer.

"All I know is that we've played pretty hard against this team."

Evgeni Nabokov was shaky again, stopping 23 shots in just his third start in 12 games for the Sharks, who rested Vesa Toskala.

"They always play us hard," San Jose captain Patrick Marleau said of the Coyotes. "They haven't taken any games off against us, and it's obvious that we have."

Sharks center Alyn McCauley sat out Thursday with an undisclosed lower-body injury, ending his streak of consecutive games played at 169.

These teams conclude their season series on April 10 in Glendale, Ariz.

STANDINGS: Coyotes - 74 points, 5th place, 28 PB, Pacific Division. Sharks - 82 points, 3rd place, 20 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Coyotes - Comrie and Shane Doan, 27 goals; Ladislav Nagy, 41 assists; Doan, 60 points and 116 PIM. Sharks - Jonathan Cheechoo, 45 goals; Joe Thornton, 81 assists and 106 points; Mark Smith, 89 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Coyotes - Power play: 18.0 percent (87 for 482), 14th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.5 percent (371 for 455), 20th. Sharks - Power play: 17.3 percent (74 for 428), 20th. Penalty killing: 81.1 percent (284 for 350), 22nd.

GOALTENDERS: Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (29-20-2, 2 SO, 2.96 GAA); David LeNeveu (3-6-2, 3.35). Sharks - Toskala (16-7-3, 1, 2.71); Nabokov (15-18-7, 1, 3.08).

SEASON SERIES: Coyotes, 5-1.

LAST MEETING: Thursday; Coyotes, 5-2. At San Jose, Calif., Joseph made 27 saves as Phoenix held the Sharks scoreless in the final 44 minutes.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Coyotes - 17-17-1 on the road; Sharks - 22-8-6 at home.

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