At long last, the Arizona Coyotes can finally see the end of their season on the horizon.
They will play the San Jose Sharks tonight and tomorrow in their final back-to-back this year. The first of these contests begins at the SAP Center in Silicon Valley.
Matchup at a Glance
|Arizona Coyotes||San Jose Sharks|
|Points||54 (7th Pacific)||85 (5th Pacific)|
|Goals For||2.03 (29th)||2.77 (14th)|
|Goals Against||3.26 (28th)||2.73 (22nd)|
|Power Play||20.2% (7th)||21.5% (6th)|
|Penalty Kill||77.3% (28th)||78.7% (25th)|
|5v5 SAT||48.8% (22nd)||51.0% (17th)|
|SPSv%||97.0 (30th)||99.7 (T-20th)|
View from Arizona
After seemingly falling out of the running for last place in the league with their 4-3 overtime win over Buffalo last weekend, the Coyotes are now just two points ahead of the basement dwellers after a 4-1 loss at Gila River Arena to the Sabres on Monday.
Tanking, of course, is least on the minds of the Coyotes' players and coaching staff. Pending free agents like Martin Erat and Mark Arcobello have contracts to play for, while younger guys like Tobias Rieder and Jordan Szwarz have roster spots to earn. The Coyotes are not simply going to roll over, and they still have plenty on the line.
View from San Jose
San Jose's usual suspects are having good years; Joe Pavelski is over the 30 goal line, while Logan Couture has 64 points on the season. Though Joe Thornton only has 14 goals this year, he does have 48 helpers. Considering all of the off-ice drama that has surrounded Thornton this season, he's having a pretty good campaign.
The Sharks are five points back of the Los Angeles Kings for the final Wild Card spot, and six points back of the Calgary Flames for third in the Pacific Division. If San Jose is going to get in, they'll need to win most of their remaining games, and have both Calgary and the Winnipeg Jets stumble down the stretch. That's a lot that has to happen for the Sharks to see postseason hockey this year.
Keys to the Game
- Make the Sharks Beat Themselves - San Jose's penalty kill has been a big problem all season long. The Coyotes might be able to exploit that weakness.
- Make the Sharks Grip Their Sticks - San Jose needs these next two games. Badly. Arizona really doesn't. That puts all the pressure on San Jose to be perfect.
- Make the Sharks Defend Their Net - When the Coyotes were winning, they were challenging the other team to defend shot attempt after shot attempt. The Coyotes need to be a lot better at making San Jose's goaltender work.
Sam Gagner has a goal and three assists in his last five games. While it doesn't look like he's going to match his career best for points (47 in 2011-12), he is only two points away from 40, which would be a nice total.
Logan Couture has three goals and three assists in his last five games. He is one point away from matching his career best (65 points in 2011-12), and he has already set a career high in assists this year (38).
Both Martin Hanzal and Mikkel Boedker are done for the year after undergoing surgical procedures in 2015. Lauri Korpikoski is still considered questionable after taking a high-stick to the face against Detroit last week.
Raffi Torres and Micro Mueller are both out for the season, while Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Mike Brown, and Scott Hannan are all considered questionable. Antti Niemi has been dealing with an illness, but is probable to start tonight.
Now that Arizona is on the same time as the rest of the Pacific Coast, tonight's game begins at 7 PM. You can catch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on AZ Sports 98.7 FM.