Having the league's best power-play unit has helped the San Jose Sharks become one of the NHL's best teams, but lately they've taken it to a whole new level.
The Sharks look to continue their strong special teams play Thursday when they host the Phoenix Coyotes in the sixth meeting between the Pacific Division rivals this season.
San Jose (31-15-0) has scored at least one power-play goal in seven straight games, winning six of those contests and moving within six points of Western Conference-leading Anaheim.The Sharks have capitalized on an impressive 51.4 percent (19-for-37) of their chances during that span, a big bump from their 26.5 percent (63-for-238) season mark.
San Jose scored all three of its goals with the man advantage Monday in a 3-1 win over Colorado.
"Our power play was cooking," said Sharks coach Ron Wilson, whose team took a season-high 42 shots on goal. "We've had some great nights on the power play, but our movement (Monday) was phenomenal."
Three Sharks who will represent the Western Conference in Wednesday's All-Star game in Dallas accounted for that superb play. Patrick Marleau had a goal and two assists while Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo - both starters for the West - each had a goal and an assist.
With 16 goals, Cheechoo has struggled to keep up the pace of his career-high 56 last season, which earned him the Maurice Richard trophy as the NHL's top goal scorer. He has picked up his play lately, though, and is riding a seven-game points streak with five goals, all on the power play, and six assists in that span.
"You can tell when Cheech is out there because of all the positive things he does on the power play," said Marleau, who has five goals and nine assists over the last seven games. "He does a great job of getting to the open area, and Joe does a great job of finding him. You can tell they've still got that chemistry."
They will try to keep that chemistry going against a Phoenix penalty-killing unit that is one of the league's worst, and has allowed a man-advantage goal in six straight games.
The Sharks have taken three of the five meetings between these teams this season, including a 4-1 victory on Saturday, part of their current three-game winning streak.
Thornton, who leads the Sharks with 58 points, has a goal and seven assists against the Coyotes this season.
The Sharks are playing the middle contest of a three-game homestand heading into the All-Star break, but have lost five of their last six home meetings with Phoenix. The Coyotes (21-23-2) opened a four-game road trip with a 4-3 loss to the Avalanche on Wednesday - snapping a six-game winning streak away from home.
Phoenix has dropped three of four overall following a season-high seven-game winning streak. Mike Zigomanis and Shane Doan scored 1:17 apart in the third period to narrow a three-goal deficit, but Phoenix failed to get any closer.
Doan has three goals and five assists in four matchups with San Jose this season
"We were unimpressive," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "We gave away the puck on three of their four goals. You just aren't going to win at this level with that kind of play."