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Arizona Coyotes hope the second half starts better than the first

41 games down, 41 to go. The Arizona Coyotes start the second half of the season at home against the San Jose Sharks before a long and tedious road trip.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

With tonight's contest, the Arizona Coyotes have officially entered the second half of what has been a difficult 2014-15 campaign. There is little time for introspection, however, as the games continue for the time being. Next up: a home contest against the division rival San Jose Sharks.

Matchup at a Glance

San Jose Sharks (22-16-5) Arizona Coyotes (16-21-4)
Points 49 (3rd Pacific) 36 (6th Pacific)
Goals For 2.65 (18th) 2.29 (26th)
Goals Against 2.65 (17th) 3.27 (27th)
Power Play 20.9% (8th) 21.8% (6th)
Penalty Kill 80.7% (16th) 74.6% (29th)
5v5 Corsi For% 51.3 (13th) 48.9 (21st)
PDO 98.5 (25th) 97.7 (28th)

View from San Jose

To no one's surprise at all, the San Jose Sharks are at the halfway point of the season and sit at third place in the Pacific Division and well in the playoff discussion. Such has been the case since Todd McLellan joined the Sharks in 2008. Call it a lack of mystique, but something is different about this particular Sharks squad, however. With 49 points in 43 games, the team is on pace for 93 points, their lowest full season total under McLellan's watch.

Sure, there still are some blue-chip talents in San Jose, such as Joe Pavelski and lone All-Star representative Brent Burns. And when it's all said and done, San Jose is playing well enough to get some postseason hockey. Compared to Arizona's season, that still is quite the accomplishment. But this isn't the same heavy hitter the Coyotes are used to dealing with. The last time the two teams played, Arizona got the better of them 4-3 in the shootout on Nov 22.

View from Arizona

Previously on the soap opera that has been the Coyotes season, Arizona was blown out by Kyle Turris and his Ottawa Senators, 5-1. The lone goal came off the stick of Mikkel Boedker, who scored in back-to-back games after going 11 games without a goal. That brings him to 12 on the season and lone possession of the team lead in goals. His semi-resurgence has been a welcome spark for a team 26th in the league in goals per game.

Sadly, the goaltending situation may be deteriorating even further with each passing week. Since allowing six goals against Dallas on New Year's Eve, Devan Dubnyk has not been between the pipes for Arizona. In the four games since, Mike Smith has been the same Mike Smith that has been wearing No. 41 for the Desert Dogs all season. He allowed 15 goals in four games with a .887 save percentage, which aligns almost perfectly with his season average of .885.

Al though to be fair to Smitty, the 4-1 win over Winnipeg on Jan. 8 may have been the best outing a Coyotes goaltender has had all season. Nevertheless, he has a ways to go to be considered a "hot hand."

Keys to the Game

  • Home field advantage - The Coyotes got a rather odd draw for the second half of the season: this game will be the second-to-last Glendale home game before the Coyotes take an eight-game road trip. Thanks Glendale Super Bowl!
  • Find a way to stop the bleeding - The Coyotes scored first against Ottawa before allowing five unanswered goals in Saturday's contest. It is the sixth time the Coyotes have allowed five unanswered goals this season. That's six times too many.
  • Figure it out in net - Dave Tippett has demonstrated stubbornness so far in the new year to help Mike Smith find his groove. If Smith does indeed get his fifth consecutive start, let's hope at least some goaltending efficacy shows itself. Winning games is hard without it.

Who's Hot

Let's go ahead and pay homage to the two All-Stars playing in this game: Arizona's Oliver Ekman-Larsson and San Jose's Brent Burns. The two enter play tied for second in the NHL for goals scored among defenseman with 11 apiece. Their situations differ greatly, but their impact is similar regardless. In that way, both players are the hottest players on their respective team, but both are being recognized in Columbus for All-Star weekend because they've been doing it year round.

Injury Report

Arizona will be without Martin Hanzal and Brandon Gormley. Zbynek Michalek will make his return to the lineup.

For San Jose, four players are currently on injured reserve: Mirco Mueller (undisclosed), Mike Brown (leg), Tyler Kennedy (upper-body) and Raffi Torres (knee).

Puck Drop

Puck will drop will be at 7 p.m. in Gila River Arena. Due to the Cavs-Suns game, the broadcast will be on FSAZ+. Regular radio listeners will still be able to hear the game on ESPN 620 AM.