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Sharks-Coyotes Preview

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GAME: San Jose Sharks (26-21-8) at Phoenix Coyotes (27-28-3).

TIME: Sunday, 8 p.m. EST.

The Phoenix Coyotes will again try to put off-ice distractions aside and look for their fifth win in a row over the San Jose Sharks as the teams meet in their final game before the Olympic break.

Phoenix has scored 16 goals in its four wins over San Jose, including three one-goal decisions. Facing the Sharks could help take the Coyotes' minds off what has been a tumultous week.

The Coyotes lost 5-1 Thursday to the Dallas Stars, its second straight loss since assistant coach Rick Tocchet was implicated as the financier in a sports betting ring that allegedly involved several NHL players and actress Janet Jones, wife of Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky.

Tocchet was granted an indefinite leave of absence Wednesday by the NHL while Gretzky fielded allegations that his wife allegedly bet at least $100,000 on football games over the course of the investigation by New Jersey authorities.

"I'm not going anywhere. I'm still going to coach the Phoenix Coyotes. I've done nothing wrong," Gretzky said immediately after Thursday night's game. Jones has not been charged.

The Coyotes have given up 14 goals while losing three in a row. Phoenix also is 2-4-1 on a 10-game homestand that concludes March 4 against the Detroit Red Wings.

"We feel we're still in the hunt. You lose anymore and you won't be," Phoenix's Shane Doan said. "The way that we've played in this homestand, it's hard to explain."

One bright spot has been left wing Geoff Sanderson, who has four goals in a three-game streak. He has just one assist in two games this season against the Sharks.

San Jose is looking for its first three-game winning streak in more than a month. Jonathan Cheechoo and rookie Milan Michalek each scored twice in the Sharks' 6-3 win Friday over the Stars.

"We needed to get the loose pucks and keep them in their zone," Sharks center Patrick Marleau said. "We were able to put a lot of pressure on them and sent a lot of pucks to the net."

Cheechoo has six goals in six games this month, and his 27 goals and 40 points since Dec. 2 are the most in the league.

Backup goaltender Vesa Toskala made 24 saves in the win over Stars and will likely start this contest. Top goalie Evgeni Nabokov will travel to Turin after this game to represent Russia in the Olympics.

STANDINGS: Sharks - 60 points, 4th place, 19 PB, Pacific Division. Coyotes - 57 points, 5th place, 22 PB, Pacific Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Sharks - Cheechoo, 34 goals; Joe Thornton, 58 assists and 78 points; Mark Smith, 73 PIM. Coyotes - Mike Comrie, 19 goals; Doan, 23 assists and 40 points; Sean O'Donnell, 114 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Sharks - Power play: 17.2 percent (58 for 337), 20th in NHL. Penalty killing: 80.2 percent (223 for 278), 24th. Coyotes - Power play: 17.9 percent (70 for 392), 17th. Penalty killing: 81.0 percent (298 for 368), 19th.

GOALTENDERS: Sharks - Nabokov (14-15-6, 1 SO, 2.95 GAA); Toskala (7-5-2, 0, 3.07). Coyotes - Curtis Joseph (22-16-1, 2, 2.88); Philippe Sauve (3-4-0, 0, 3.41).

SEASON SERIES: Coyotes, 4-0.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 28; Coyotes, 6-2. At Phoenix, Comrie scored twice and Keith Ballard had a goal and two assists for Phoenix, which won its third straight at home. Nils Ekman had a goal and an assist for San Jose.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Sharks - 10-14-3 on the road; Coyotes - 15-14-2 at home.

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