"A banner would be nice, banners are always nice."
-Shane Doan from NHL.com
In the first of three late season meeting the Phoenix Coyotes will take on the Pacific Division leading San Jose Sharks hoping to knock them off of their perch and grab a share of the division lead. The Sharks have been a tough nut for the Coyotes to crack this year though as the Sharks have won the previous three meetings between the teams. The last one still has to be in the minds of the Coyotes even if coach Dave Tippett, as he said, burned the game film of that loss. Unfortunately NHL.com didn't burn theirs as it still shows the 5-3 loss that had the Coyotes up 3-0 before just getting creamed in the 2nd half of the game. That loss though was way back at the beginning of February and not with the tough Coyotes we've seen over the last month and a half.
Since that loss the Coyotes have gone 16-6-2 since losing that game and the awful Canucks game after it. That's including a current run of 8-1-1 over the last 10 games. The Sharks are a dangerous team to be sure, but if the Sharks or their fans want to think this is an easy game they'll be leaving in a tie for the division. I will give them some edge with all the injuries the Coyotes have taken lately. Ed Jovanovski has been out along with power center Martin Hanzal and now Lauri Korpikoski and Vernon Fiddler are game time decisions after the Blue Jackets game dinged them up. So much so that the Coyote recalled Ryan Hollweg. Yes that Ryan Hollweg just in case they couldn't go tonight. At least Ilya Bryzgalov has been playing well and seems focused lately. He's now tied for the league lead in wins and has 7 shutouts on the year. No big deal.
No one is selling the Sharks short that's for sure. While they may have started of the year so-so they've turned it on down the stretch even if they've dropped a few games. A team that has Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton up front and anchored by Dan Boyle on defense is going to be pretty solid. Though Dany Heatley can suck it. The defense of the Sharks has stepped up and made the goaltending look pretty good after they had been pretty shakey at the start of the year. Antii Niemi has certainly improved but is beatable if the Coyotes can create traffic.
Five for Winning
- Typically the Coyotes would roll Martin Hanzal out against the top line of the Sharks and he's traditionally done well against them. Someone else is going to have to step up and lock them down if the Coyotes want to win.
- Bryz is playing is 33rd of 35 games and while that might seem like a lot this last strech has games pretty spread out so he can get plenty of rest. His challenge is more staying focused than anything else, but that hasn't been an issue in a while.
- If Fiddler and Korpikoski can't go then that should mean all the kids will. This is the big show guys you all need to make it count. Kyle Turris and Brett MacLean just need to take note from Mikkel Boedker on this.
- Paul Bissonnette may have scored against the Sharks last time out, but lately he's been doing what he does bast. Getting the team revved up. 3 fights in the last 2 games? If he can find a willing combatant early maybe the Coyotes can get energy on their side.
- With 4 of the last 6 at home and a likely sellout crowd tonight this is a chance to really get some attention in the Valley for the hockey and not some other BS. The Coyotes need to score early and keep the hitting and general energy level up to get the crowd on their feet.