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San Jose Sharks visit Gila River Arena and Arizona Coyotes for first time in 2016-17

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The Sharks are Arizona’s first Pacific Division opponent for the season.

NHL: San Jose Sharks at Arizona Coyotes Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Eight games into the season and the Arizona Coyotes have somehow managed to avoid any division opponent match-ups, until now.

The reigning Western Conference Champion San Jose Sharks will be in town Tuesday night. And they can smell blood.

View from San Jose

For the perspective from San Jose, check out Fear the Fin.

The Sharks are 6-3-0 after their first 9 games of the season.

Like the Coyotes, they played one game at home before heading East for a decently sized road trip. However, for a reigning Conference Champ, it was not the start to the season the Sharks were after either, as they went 2-3-0 on the trip.

Since returning home, the Sharks have been on point. They've won their last three games straight and only conceded three goals in those last three wins combined. San Jose is going to make it very difficult for a streaky Arizona offense to score.

This will be the Arizona’s first encounter of the year with the formerly beloved Coyote pup Mikkel Boedker. Thankfully for the Coyotes, Boedker has only recorded one goal in nine games. Hopefully playing against his former team doesn’t motivate him out of his slump.

Though given how Arizona’s season has gone thus far, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising either.

View from Arizona

The Coyotes are having a rough start to the season. They have now fallen to 2-6-0 after their first eight games and are in sole position of last place in the entire league. If there was ever a time to turn it on and grab some points, it’s against a Pacific Division opponent like the Sharks who can be counted to make a push for the playoffs this season.

After providing some hope for fans by defeating the Flyers for a second time, the Coyotes lost their credibility once more by falling to the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 in their latest game.

For the most part, Arizona has managed to keep their opponents close so far this season; five of their first eight games have been decided by one goal. While losing one goal games to strong opponents can indicate the Coyotes are close to clicking, there’s only so many one goal losses that a team and its fan-base can psychologically handle before losing in this fashion starts to feel as bad as being blown out.

The Coyotes are starting to run the risk of creating a losing culture for the season - hopefully they recognize this. If the losing continues, only a lengthy winning streak will be able to prevent 2016-17 becoming another draft picking and development season. And if the losing continue to come in its current quantities, the development might be more detrimental than positive for Arizona’s younger players.

Three Questions

  1. Will Anthony Duclair and Max Domi return to form? - Duclair has recorded one point for the season and no goals, while Domi has recorded six points and has also remained absent from the goal-scorers list. Both players need to start scoring goals as soon as possible if Arizona is going to have any chance at winning games this season. Perhaps the pressure on them to perform and lead the team is too great?
  2. Can Louis Domingue be consistent? - While Domingue’s .912 SV% was a marked improvement over his other starts this season - can he continue to keep posting similar numbers and give the Coyotes the chance to win they deserve? Despite statically playing his best game of the season against the Avalanche, Domingue still blames himself for the Coyotes’ loss.
  3. Will Dylan Strome make his home debut? - Strome didn’t make his home debut in Arizona’s most recent home game, so will he do so against the Sharks? Arizona believe he is making the right progress despite not playing since the 21st of October. Albert Einstein once said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Maybe it’s time to give Strome a fair shake of the sauce bottle.

Players to Watch

San Jose - Joe Pavelski - There are so many players to watch when playing against the Sharks. However, given Arizona’s habit of letting individual opponents win games against them (see Taylor Hall & Matt Duchene), Pavelski and his 11 points in 9 games is your safest bet to be the reason Coyotes’ fans go home crying on Tuesday night.

Arizona - Brad Richardson - Richardson leads the Coyotes in points so far this season with seven. Two of his three goals have come shorthanded this season, and he is +2 in shot attempt differential, which on a losing team like the Coyotes are right now is a great indication he is one of our best players every night on the ice.

Injury Report

Mike Smith remains on injured reserve for the Coyotes, while Michael Stone is considered probable for tonight’s game after missing Saturday night’s contest against Colorado.

The San Jose Sharks are skating with a completely healthy roster.

Puck Drop

Tonight’s game gets underway at 7:00 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on NBCSN or listen on ESPN Phoenix 620 AM.