It's unfortunate to say, but this year there will be no playoff hockey at Jobing.com Arena. Although that means the Whiteout will not make its fourth straight appearance, it does mean that the Coyotes will be playing with nothing to lose. In tonight's game, Phoenix will try to exact some revenge and recover some pride when they play the San Jose Sharks for the fifth and final time this season.
If you're looking for a reason as to why Phoenix couldn't get in the playoffs down the stretch, the Sharks are a pretty good one. Last season the Coyotes won 4 of 6 against San Jose; this season they've only managed to beat them once, a 1-0 shootout victory at HP Pavilion. Coyotes fans will also probably remember the 4-0 drubbing the Sharks gave Phoenix the last time they played here. With 59 points (25-14-7), San Jose is guaranteed a playoff berth and are currently deadlocked with Los Angeles in the 4-5 matchup. They will want home-ice advantage in the 1st round if they can manage it, as they are an impressive 17-2-5 in San Jose.
Despite the fact that the Coyotes will not make the postseason, there are still plenty of things to play for. Several players are in their contract years, and will want to put on a show to justify getting re-signed by Don Maloney. And after a painful 4-0 pounding in Detroit Monday night, the Coyotes would absolutely like to respond with a strong game and two points.
Five For Winning
1. Stay Out of the Box. The Coyotes were a dismal 1-4 on the penalty kill. With their struggles on offense, every power play goal conceded is magnified. The easiest way to not give up goals shorthanded is to not be shorthanded.
2. Who Wants It? There have been quite a few Coyotes under-performing this season, for various reasons. Hopefully someone decides to step up and demonstrate they still want to play hockey the right way.
3. Mike Smith, be Mike Smith. Smitty shutout the San Jose Sharks three times last season and once this year. If he wants to earn the big bucks with the Coyotes or another club next season, he will need to turn in a vintage performance.
4. Forecheck. Despite the lopsided score Monday night, there were stretches of that game where the Coyotes had Detroit hemmed in their own zone and on their heels. More often than not, cycling the puck in the offensive zone and keeping the puck away from the other team will get you a win.
5. Put On a Show. There are only two home games left in the season, and three overall. Coyotes fans have responded to this team's recent success by showing up in greater numbers than in years past. Even if there isn't playoff hockey, give them something to cheer about tonight.
Projected Starting Goaltenders
#1 / Goalie / San Jose Sharks
Jan 29, 1986
|2012 - Thomas Greiss||5||250||1||3||11||2.64||121||110||.909||1|
As you can see by Greiss' stats, Antti Niemi has played the lion's share of games for the Sharks this year, including last night in a 3-2 win over Dallas. Todd McLellan left the possibility of playing Greiss open for tonight's game, so he might opt to give Niemi a little rest down the stretch to get him ready for the playoffs.
#41 / Goalie / Phoenix Coyotes
Mar 22, 1982
|2012 - Mike Smith||32||1832||14||12||79||2.59||876||797||.910||5|
There may not be a team in the NHL Smith enjoys playing against more than the Sharks. With four shutouts over the past two years, Smitty is a formidable opponent. Expect to see him in net tonight.
Players to Watch
#8 / Center / San Jose Sharks
Jul 11, 1984
|2012 - Joe Pavelski||16||14||30||3||10|
No one is better at punishing the Phoenix Coyotes than Joe Pavelski. He has two goals and four assists against Phoenix this season. The Coyotes will once again have their hands full with San Jose's top talent.
#50 / Left Wing / Phoenix Coyotes
Jul 20, 1982
|2012 - Antoine Vermette||10||8||18||-4||34|
It has been a rough season for Vermette. After struggling to score consistently, Vermette's recent woes have been in the penalty department; he took two bad penalties against Detroit that both resulted in power play goals. He will need to have a much cleaner game tonight.
The Sharks' lone injury is Jason Demers, who will be out of tonight's action with a foot injury.
The Coyotes are skating with a completely healthy roster.
Tonight's game is at 7 PM at Jobing.com Arena. You can catch the action on Fox Sports Arizona or XTRA 910 AM.