It's not often that a division rival doesn't make the trip out to Glendale until after the All Star Break, but that has been the case for the San Jose Sharks this year as they will come out to the desert for the first time tonight to play the Phoenix Coyotes. The Sharks and Coyotes split the two matchups earlier this year in San Jose with each team taking a 3-goal win, Coyotes with the shutout in the most recent game on November 12.
Of course, that game predated the "dark ages" of the Coyotes season, namely everything that happened after the Kyle Turris drama unfolded. Now, with just 31 games left in the season, the Desert Dogs are in "put up or shut up" mode with little room to drop any points, let alone to a Western Conference foe...even if that foe is almost assuredly not going to be competing for the 8th playoff position, but rather challenging for yet another meaningless Western Conference and Pacific Division crown.
1. Stay Disciplined. After the game against the Ducks, the Coyotes are due some love from the referees. Let's see if they can actually take advantage of that by getting a number of power play opportunities.
2. Cash in on the Man Advantage. Getting the power plays will be a bit meaningless unless they can convert. Considering that one of San Jose's few weaknesses is their 28th ranked penalty kill, this could be essential for a Coyotes victory.
3. Stop the Easy Ones. Mike Smith is having a rough go of things recently, but it's not the plays that you expect to give him difficulty that are - it's fairly routine shots and plays where he is getting himself out of position. The Coyotes need him to play like a world beater for a few weeks.
4. Where's the D? The problems in their own zone have been troublesome, but the Coyotes also need to see their defensemen jumping into plays and lighting the lamp a bit. Since David Schlemko went down, it seems that this is not happening too often. I can't even remember the last time Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored a goal.
5. Play like it's April. The Coyotes need to play with the mentality that it's win or go home, and the Sharks are a terrible playoff team...so let's combine these two things and create a hard fought playoff-style victory for the 'yotes.
|2011 - Mikkel Boedker||51||7||9||16||-3||6||0||0||1||53|
With all of his speed, he creates havoc for opposing defenses. His finishing continues to need a bit of work, but he's a guy that can get hot down the stretch and really get this team going in the right direction. Tonight would be a great night to start.
|2011 - Logan Couture||49||21||19||40||10||10||5||2||3||147|
All Star, five game point streak, leading the Sharks in goals scored. Yeah, stop this guy tonight, ok.
Likely Starters in Net
|2011 - Mike Smith||39||2244||18||14||93||2.49||1170||1077||.921||2|
|2011 - Thomas Greiss||12||727||7||4||24||1.98||322||298||.925||0|