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Sharks-Coyotes Preview @NHLdotcom

Despite the San Jose Sharks' continuing offensive struggles, Evgeni Nabokov has kept them in the race for first in the Western Conference.

Nabokov will try to continue his success against the conference's last-place team and help the Sharks regain the West's top spot when they visit the woeful Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night.

Thanks to consecutive victories since Nabokov's return, San Jose (45-13-10) remains a point behind Detroit heading into Tuesday's play with the Red Wings hosting Philadelphia earlier in the evening.

With an upper-body injury keeping their top goaltender out for seven games, the Sharks gave up 22 goals during a 2-4-1 stretch to allow Detroit to take over the conference lead, but Nabokov yielded one goal while winning two games this weekend.

He started with Saturday night's 2-1 shootout win over Los Angeles, then posted his sixth shutout of the season the next evening in Anaheim - a 1-0 victory that clinched the team's fifth straight playoff berth.

Assisting Nabokov was one of the league's best penalty-killing units, which has denied opponents at an 84.2 percent clip and has fended off 15 consecutive power plays.

"The effort was there tonight. It's always good when the effort is there," Nabokov said following Sunday's victory. "We killed penalties pretty well. It wasn't an easy game, but it was a road win."

While Nabokov has given the Sharks a boost, they still haven't solved their recent scoring woes. Travis Moen scored the only goal Sunday for San Jose, which has averaged 1.73 goals in its last 11 games and has failed to capitalize on 17 straight power-play opportunities.

Joe Thornton leads the team with 74 points but has none in the last three games. He hasn't gone four straight without a point since Nov. 28-Dec. 4, 2006.

Patrick Marleau, who has a team-best 35 goals, has scored once in the last eight contests. Devin Setoguchi, third on the Sharks with 53 points, has one assist and no goals in his last 10.

The offense hasn't been particularly sharp recently against Phoenix, scoring 20 goals in the last eight meetings, but Nabokov has been. He is 9-1-1 with a 1.53 goals-against average in his last 12 starts versus the Coyotes.

Nabokov has won both of his starts against them this season, not allowing a goal in the last 116 minutes, 47 seconds.

Should Nabokov start Tuesday, he'll face a team that hasn't scored more than twice in nine straight games.

A five-game skid has dropped Phoenix, which has a league-low 166 goals, into the West cellar - a point behind Colorado. The Coyotes (28-35-6) are 4-16-1 since the All-Star break, scoring 41 goals, and have one win in their last nine home games.

They failed to capitalize on one of Ilya Bryzgalov's better performances of the season in Saturday night's 2-0 loss to visiting Nashville. Bryzgalov allowed one goal on 32 shots, but his teammates managed only 18 - eight in the first two periods.

"The problem is it was all in the third period," Coyotes captain Shane Doan said. "Eight shots after two periods in your home building, it's embarrassing. It's going to be better moving forward. It will be better."

San Jose is 11-2-2 in the last 15 meetings.

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