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Coyotes' Ekman-Larsson to miss fourth straight game

Arizona defenseman practiced Wednesday but won't return against San Jose

by Jerry Brown / NHL.com Correspondent

SHARKS (39-24-6) at COYOTES (30-32-7)

TV: 10 p.m. ET; CSN-CA, FS-A PLUS, NHL.TV

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes will be without defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson for a fourth straight game Thursday when they host the San Jose Sharks.

Ekman-Larsson, who sustained a shoulder injury March 7 against the Colorado Avalanche, practiced Wednesday but skated with the extra players Thursday and will delay his return by at least one game.

Ekman-Larsson leads the Coyotes with 30 assists and 49 points.

"He's not quite there yet," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "He's skating, he's shooting and stuff, but we'll make sure he's good and ready to go before he can play."

Goalie Mike Smith will make his first home start since Nov. 27. Smith, who missed 40 games following abdominal surgery, returned with a 44-save shutout in a 4-0 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday. The effort tied the second-highest save total in a shutout in Smith's career and was his 29th shutout overall.

Tippett said Smith and Louis Domingue, who has been the No. 1 goalie for the past three months, will see time over the final 13 games of the season.

"Louie has earned the right to keep playing," Tippett said. "He's come in and done a heck of a job for us. Both guys will play and both guys will be rested when they play."
 
The previous time these teams played in Arizona, on Jan. 21, the Sharks and Coyotes were tied with the Vancouver Canucks for second place in the Pacific Division standings with 49 points. San Jose won 3-1 and has gone 16-6-3 since; the Coyotes went the other way at 8-14-2 and have fallen 17 points behind the Sharks, who sit comfortably in the top three in the division.

San Jose is one point behind the second-place Anaheim Ducks, who don't play Thursday.

Defenseman Brent Burns has been a big part of the San Jose surge. He scored his 26th goal in a 3-2 win against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday and had an assist for 64 points, tying him with Sandis Ozolinsh for the franchise record in single-season goals and points by a Sharks defenseman.

Goalie Martin Jones will start for the Sharks after James Reimer won the past two games. Jones is 34-18-4 and has allowed two goals in two wins against the Coyotes this season.

The Sharks have played their past three games at home and have six more in a row at SAP Center after the quick trip to Arizona. But the Sharks are comfortable on the road, where they are an NHL-best 25-9-3 through 37 games.

Here are the projected lineups:

SHARKS
Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Melker Karlsson - Logan Couture - Joonas Donskoi
Matt Nieto - Patrick Marleau - Joel Ward
Nick Spaling - Chris Tierney - Dainius Zubrus

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun
Paul Martin - Brent Burns
Brenden Dillon -- Roman Polak

Martin Jones
James Reimer

Injured: Matt Tennyson (head)
Scratched: Tommy Wingels
 
COYOTES
Alex Tanguay - Antoine Vermette - Anthony Duclair
Tobias Reider - Martin Hanzal - Viktor Tikhonov
Max Domi - Brad Richardson - Shane Doan
Jordan Martinook - Boyd Gordon - Sergei Plotnikov

Kevin Connauton - Connor Murphy
Klas Dahlbeck - Zbynek Michalek
Niklas Grossmann - Michael Stone

Mike Smith
Louis Domingue

Injured: Oliver Ekman-Larsson (shoulder)
Scratched: Kyle Chipchura, Jiri Sekac
 
Status report: Tennyson skated Wednesday for the first time since sustaining a head injury against the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 22. He will miss his 12th straight game Thursday.

Who's hot: Since being partnered with Tanguay and Duclair, Vermette has five goals and nine points, his most productive five-game stretch since March 15-25 of 2010. … The Coyotes lead the NHL with 30 power-play goals at home.

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