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Sharks aim for consistency against Coyotes

by Corey Masisak /

SHARKS (21-13-7) at COYOTES (18-16-7)


Last 10: San Jose 7-2-1; Phoenix 5-2-3

Season series: The San Jose Sharks have won two of three against the Phoenix Coyotes this season. Each of the past two matchups has gone to a shootout, with the clubs splitting them.

Big story: The Coyotes, who currently sit four points shy of eighth place in the Western Conference, need a win -- but the Sharks are also still trying to cement their place in the top eight.

Team scope:

Sharks: San Jose won seven straight games to storm into contention for the No. 4 seed in the West, including victories against Detroit, Minnesota and Vancouver (teams also potentially vying for fourth), but the Sharks have slipped since the streak. They have lost three of four (1-2-1) and are in danger of slipping to the seventh or eighth seed, which would likely mean a first-round matchup with either the Chicago Blackhawks or the Anaheim Ducks.

"We can't get too high, we can't get too low," coach Todd McLellan told reporters. "We've got to play every minute of all 60 as hard as we can. I thought that was probably our downfall [in a 2-1 loss to Dallas on Saturday night]. We probably gave away 13 or 14 minutes of valuable time and it cost us."

Coyotes: Like the Sharks, the Coyotes were on a roll after the first week of April. Points in six straight games (4-0-2) had Phoenix two points shy of eighth in the West and alone in ninth place. A three-game trip to Western Canada produced only three of six possible points, and the Coyotes have slipped to 11th in the conference. Six of the Coyotes' final seven games are against teams ahead of them in the standings, including another matchup at home against San Jose on the 24th.

"That was obviously big to get a point, but not good enough, we need to get two," captain Shane Doan told reporters after the loss to Calgary on Friday night. "You have to try and stay within striking distance."

Who's hot: San Jose hasn't been scoring a lot of late, but goaltender Antti Niemi has won eight of his past 11 appearances and yielded two goals or fewer in eight of his past 10 starts.

Injury report: San Jose defenseman Scott Hannan (upper body) is out. Defenseman Zybnek Michalek (ankle) and forward Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) are out for the Coyotes.

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