When last these two teams met, the Arizona Coyotes found a way to get it done on a big stage.
Tonight, the Coyotes welcome the San Jose Sharks back to Gila River Arena after a frustrating 0-0-2 trek to the Great White North in Canada.
View from San Jose
For more on the San Jose Sharks, check out Fear the Fin
The Sharks are currently riding a roller coaster of success and failure. Their loss in Arizona on November 1st kicked off a three game losing streak, which they immediately followed up with a three game winning streak, followed once again by a two game losing streak heading into tonight’s contest. San Jose’s 9-8-0 record seems appropriate given the way their November has gone.
Right now San Jose’s biggest problem is the health of star forward Tomas Hertl. Hertl returned to San Jose to receive an MRI today, which suggests a more significant injury to his knee than originally thought. Hertl is one of the catalysts of San Jose’s offense; they need him back sooner rather than later.
View from Arizona
It’s lonely at the bottom.
With an overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the Coyotes are now two points behind the Colorado Avalanche for last place in the Western Conference. Arizona is averaging a paltry 2.50 goals per game, which is actually still slightly inflated from the high scoring affairs that characterized the first week of the season.
Decision time is rapidly approaching with Dylan Strome. Strome has played seven games this season, and did look slightly better against the Canucks in the areas of the game he needs to work on most, such as keeping opposing players off the puck and winning battles down low. But the biggest knock on him - his skating - was exposed on the game-winning goal, when he was forced to give Ben Hutton a penalty shot on a breakaway attempt.
With the World Juniors rapidly approaching, the Coyotes will have to decide where is best for Strome to continue developing. And if it’s here in Arizona, they will have to decide if the lack of regular ice time is becoming problematic.
- Will San Jose be looking ahead? - The Coyotes do not look particularly intimidating on paper, and the Sharks are at the end of a six game road trip before opening up a five game homestand over Thanksgiving week. If the Sharks are not mentally in this game, the Coyotes have to capitalize.
- Who will get in front of the net? - Arizona did a much better job getting chances from close range against Vancouver than they did against Calgary, but it still wasn’t enough. Martin Hanzal and Shane Doan are two of Arizona’s biggest bodies; the Coyotes need them to use their size in the low slot to cause havoc.
- Can the Coyotes give their goalies a break? - Both Mike Smith and Louis Domingue played exceptionally well in back-to-back starts. They only received three combined goals of offensive support however. Arizona has to make their goalies’ lives easier.
Players to Watch
San Jose - Mikkel Boedker - Of the two former Coyotes on San Jose’s roster, David Schlemko has more points (3) than Mikkel Boedker (2) does. One of Boedker’s two goals this season came against the Coyotes however, so keep an eye on him tonight.
Arizona - Radim Vrbata - Vrbata took nine shots on net against the Canucks. He is one of the few Coyotes consistently putting everything on net.
San Jose is without Tomas Hertl for an indefinite period of time, while Melker Karlsson is considered questionable for tonight’s game after missing the past two games for San Jose.
Arizona will not have Brad Richardson for an extended period of time after he broke both his tibia and fibula in a freak collision against Vancouver. Tobias Rieder is also considered questionable.
Tonight’s game begins at 6 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on 92.3 FM.