When the Phoenix Coyotes hit town for their Thursday encounter with the Sharks, it could be either a good or a bad situation for Team Teal.
On the positive side, the Sharks and Evgeni Nabokov have beaten Phoenix four consecutive times this season, including a stretch where the Sharks were Phoenix’s opponent for three straight games.
In the three most recent contests, Nabokov became the first NHL netminder to post three consecutive shutouts against one team since Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom accomplished it against Edmonton (April 3 – Oct. 10, 2007). The last goaltender to have four straight shutouts against one team was Dominik Hasek vs. the New York Rangers (Dec. 21, 1997 – Oct. 27, 1998).
The shutout streak against Phoenix is now 230 minutes and 47 seconds, dating back to the first regular season contest between the clubs on Nov. 10.
“They certainly don’t want to be shutout four times in a row and what are the chances of that,” said Sharks Head Coach Ron Wilson.
“You can’t look at the last game and think you’ll do it again,” said Kyle McLaren. “The last time we played them, it was close.”
McLaren was talking about the 1-0 Sharks victory on Dec. 7 in Phoenix.
Nabokov is the first Sharks goaltender to post three consecutive shutouts against one team. This is also the first time the Sharks have not allowed a goal in three consecutive games vs. an opponent.
On the flip side, Phoenix is well aware of the statistics and will be coming in extremely motivated.
On top of the additional motivation, Phoenix has been playing very strong hockey since San Jose last saw them. Phoenix has won three straight on their five-game road trip, which concludes in San Jose. Wins on this trip have come in tough venues such as New Jersey, Madison Square Garden and Philadelphia.
“I think what is important is they’re 4-1 on their road trip,” said Kyle McLaren. “That is what you have to look at.”
The losses to the Sharks, combined with picking up goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov from Anaheim off waivers, sparked Phoenix to four straight wins after being acquired on Nov. 17.
“We always knew he was a good goalie,” said McLaren. “Look at the jump they’ve made in goaltending since he got there. Knowing you have a goalie you can trust makes a big difference for the defensemen and the forwards.”
Luckily, the Sharks can say the same thing about Nabokov.
8-0 The Sharks have an eight-game winning streak against Phoenix counting the four wins to close out last season. Phoenix’s last victory against San Jose? The memorable 8-0 romp almost a year ago back on Dec. 30 in Arizona.
TEAM MEETING The Sharks held an extended team meeting prior to Wednesday’s practice.
“I haven’t thought about Phoenix yet,” said Wilson. “We’re working on what we need to improve on from last night’s game. We have to continue to improve our game when we’re down a goal.”
The Sharks also had a regularly scheduled NHL security meeting following Wednesday’s practice.
CHANGES Ron Wilson noted that lineup changes could happen following the loss to the Ducks.
“There could be a few changes,” said Wilson. “A few guys are a little dinged up and there are decisions to make.”
One of the changes could be the insertion of a healthier Jeremy Roenick (knee) back into the lineup, a move Wilson hinted as a possibility on Tuesday.
NEXT GAME The Sharks will play hosts to Phoenix at 7:30 PM at HP Pavilion on Thursday. Tickets are still available at the HP Pavilion Ticket Office and at www.ticketmaster.com. The contest will be available on FSN Bay Area, 98.5 KFOX and sjsharks.com.