Phoenix hasn't shown much spark against the San Jose Sharks this year. Even when the Coyotes did finally play with some grit, they ended up being penalized.
The Coyotes, who will be down a defenseman as a result of an altercation in their last meeting with the Sharks, look to snap a six-game losing streak in this series as the Pacific Division rivals meet Thursday night for the third time in four days.
Phoenix (7-9-0) is playing its third straight game against first-place San Jose (10-7-2), which hasn't lost to the Coyotes since falling 8-0 on the road last Dec. 30. The Coyotes have been outscored 27-7 during their skid against the Sharks, including a 4-1 loss Saturday night followed by a 5-0 defeat two days later.
"They're one of the better teams in the Western Conference, they've got a lot of depth and it makes you grow up in a real hurry so it makes us a better team," Phoenix coach Wayne Gretzky said.
The NHL fined Gretzky $10,000 on Tuesday and suspended Coyotes defenseman Nick Boynton for this game as a result of an altercation in Monday night's game at San Jose.
The suspension is automatic for a player who instigates a fight in the final 5 minutes of regulation or in overtime. The fine also is automatic under the rule cited by the NHL.
Boynton's fight with San Jose right wing Steve Bernier occurred at 15:50 of the third period. Phoenix recalled defenseman Brendan Bell from their AHL affiliate in San Antonio on Wednesday to help make up for Boynton's absence.
The Coyotes will need all the help they can get on the blue line, having given up four goals or more in each game during their losing streak against the Sharks.
Goaltender Mikael Tellqvist is 0-3-0 with a tie and a 3.93 goals-against average in four career games against the Sharks.
Phoenix is back at home following two games in San Jose. The change of scenery won't necessarily help the Coyotes, who are 2-6-0 at Jobing.com Arena.
This will be the first time the Coyotes franchise will play three straight games against the same opponent since the Winnipeg Jets played three in a row against Vancouver in March 1983.
Phoenix faces a San Jose team that has won a season-high three straight, including a 4-3 shootout win over Dallas on Wednesday night to give it a three-point lead over Anaheim atop the Pacific Division. Rookie Devin Setoguchi and Patrick Marleau both scored in regulation and the shootout.
Setoguchi's first-period goal gave him six in his first eight NHL games. The winger, drafted eighth overall in 2005, had three goals in San Jose's two games against Phoenix.
Torrey Mitchell, another Sharks rookie, scored San Jose's other goal in regulation Wednesday to extend his point streak to four games (three goals, one assist).
San Jose may be without left wing Milan Michalek for the second straight game. He strained his elbow in Monday's game against Phoenix, and his status is uncertain.