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Arizona Coyotes kick off home back-to-back versus the San Jose Sharks

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Can the Coyotes pull together a victory after a tough pair of road games?

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The schedule makers made some interesting choices for the Arizona Coyotes this week. After back to back road games in Chicago and St. Louis, the Coyotes had two days off before a rare pair of back-to-back home games. The first of those two contests is tonight's game versus the San Jose Sharks.

Matchup at a Glance

San Jose Sharks Arizona Coyotes
Points 64 (2nd Pacific) 47 (6th Pacific)
Goals For 2.79 (14th) 2.26 (26th)
Goals Against 2.73 (21st) 3.18 (27th)
Power Play 21.0% (T-7th) 22.4% (6th)
Penalty Kill 81.0% (17th) 78.3% (26th)
5v5 Corsi For 51.3% (13th) 48.6% (23rd)
PDO 99.8 (22nd) 97.7 (29th)

View from San Jose

It's been an odd season for San Jose. After an uninspiring 11-10-4 start through November it was an open question whether or not the team's Stanley Cup window had finally closed. Since then, San Jose is 18-10-4, and is now perched (albeit uncomfortably) in second place in the Pacific, just one point ahead of the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks.

The usual suspects lead the way for the Sharks. The one-two-three punch of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Patrick Marleau remains highly productive, as do Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl. All five players have double-digit goals and assists on the season, for a deadly (if somewhat top heavy) forward corps.

Defensively the Sharks benefit from arguably the most underrated defenseman in the game in Marc-Edouard Vlasic, as well as defenseman, turned forward, turned defenseman again, Brent Burns. Though their goaltending has been middling at best (Antti Niemi currently boasts a .911 save percentage), San Jose is a fearsome team that will be in it at the end of the season.

View from Arizona

It's been awhile since the Coyotes saw their friends from the Bay Area. The last game these two teams played was November 22nd at the SAP Center, a game the Coyotes won 4-3 in the shootout. Tonight's game will mark the first time all season that the Sharks visit Gila River Arena, which is surprising given the intra-division scheduling tendency in the NHL.

Arizona's leading goal scorer is Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who has rounded into form as one of the league's premier two-way defensemen. He will be looking for help from forward mates Sam Gagner, Shane Doan, and Antoine Vermette, among others.

Tonight should also mark the Coyotes debut of center Mark Arcobello, who was picked up off waivers by the Coyotes Wednesday morning. As this is his fourth team this season, Arcobello will undoubtedly be looking to make a positive impression on his new teammates and solidify a spot on a franchise entering a retooling phase.

Keys to the Game

  • Contain the Damage - The top six of San Jose is among the best in the NHL. But beyond that, there are not a whole lot of fearsome scorers. Arizona may not be able to stop San Jose's best, but if they can limit the damage, they'll have a chance to win.
  • Control the Front of the Net - The 5-6-7 punch of Andrew Campbell, Connor Murphy, and Chris Summers has been highly effective at causing trouble for opposing players looking to camp in front of Mike Smith. San Jose can throw bodies around too, so the depth defensemen will need to be prepared to assert their dominance over the crease area.
  • Play Loose - San Jose needs points in the worst way to stay in playoff position. Arizona can play spoiler. Have fun, frustrate the Sharks, and the Coyotes may actually steal a couple of points from a team Arizona loves to beat.

Who to Watch

Accusations of gutlessness aside, Patrick Marleau has a goal and four assists in his last five games, in a stretch of productivity overshadowed by a relatively disappointing season, by his standards at least.

Keith Yandle's point streak regrettably came to an end Tuesday night in St. Louis. However, he still has five helpers in his last five games, and is as fearsome on the power play as anyone in the NHL.

Injury Report

The San Jose Sharks have multiple players on injured reserve, including some key contributors. Winger Danil Tarasov (undisclosed) and Marc-Edouard Vlasic (concussion), have been on IR since February 9th. They join Tye McGinn (upper body), Justin Braun (upper body), Mike Brown (leg), and Raffi Torres (knee).

The Arizona Coyotes are also missing key contributors. Mikkel Boedker (spleen) will not be back until late February at the earliest after having spleen surgery earlier this month, while Martin Hanzal (upper body) and Joe Vitale (upper body) are both out for indefinite periods of time.

Puck Drop

Tonight's game begins at 7 PM Arizona time. You can see the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen to the game on ESPN 620 AM.