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Arizona Coyotes take quick trip to San Jose to play Sharks

After a big home win versus Calgary, the Coyotes are off to the Bay Area.

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

A big regulation win at home was exactly what the Arizona Coyotes needed to stay afloat in the Pacific Division playoff race. Now is their chance to make up some ground.

The Coyotes will play their second divisional game in two nights when they take on the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center tonight.

Matchup at a Glance

Arizona Coyotes San Jose Sharks
Points 56 (4th Pacific) 61 (2nd Pacific)
Goals For 2.65 (15th) 2.91 (4th)
Goals Against 3.04 (28th) 2.70 (T-19th)
Power Play 19.0% (14th) 23.1% (4th)
Penalty Kill 77.8% (27th) 80.1% (19th)
5v5 Corsi For 46.8% (28th) 51.0% (T-12th)
PDO 100.7 (T-6th) 99.3 (22nd)

View from Arizona

The world looks different after a win. The sky is bluer. The birds sing more beautifully than before. And hope - like Shane Doan - springs eternal.

Arizona took advantage of a tired Calgary Flames team by scoring three power play goals en route to a 4-1 victory. Simultaneously, Doan set a new franchise record with 931 career points, surpassing Dale Hawerchuk's mark. It was a well played game all around by the Coyotes.

Tonight will be a tough test. Louis Domingue appears to be on a hot streak, but in general stats suggest playing the same goaltender twice on a back-to-back is not a good idea. Do the Coyotes stick with the hot hand? Or do they turn to the rested (yet uninspiring) Anders Lindback against a San Jose team that is deadly in the offensive zone?

View from San Jose

For the latest on the San Jose Sharks, check out Fear The Fin

Once more, with feeling?

San Jose's offense is top-notch in the NHL. The dynamic trio of Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Patrick Marleau are three of the team's top four point producers. Logan Couture is making up for lost time, with five goals and twelve assists in just twenty-three games. Up front, all the pieces are there to be a threat in the postseason.

Yet on the back-end, San Jose does not look particularly inspiring. They are in the bottom half of the league in goals against and penalty kill percentage. Their possession stats are not particularly robust. Martin Jones, like Antti Niemi before him, looks decidedly average, with a .915 save percentage in 44 appearances.

The Sharks have forced their Stanley Cup window back open largely by undoing the mistakes they made in the 2014 offseason. But they are still not quite elite, and are going to need to do something about their defense if they are really going to contend this season.

Keys to the Game

1. Fewer Penalties - There were 38 penalty minutes handed out last night between the Flames and Coyotes. None were from fighting majors. That's way too many trips to the penalty box.

2. More First Period Offense - The Coyotes witnessed firsthand what happens when a tired team on the road can't get the puck past the goalie early. They need to avoid a similar fate.

3. Track Assignments - The one goal the Coyotes surrendered last night came after Kevin Connauton lost sight of his man in the defensive zone. Arizona can't afford to do that against the caliber of forwards San Jose has.

Players to Watch

In addition to passing Hawerchuk, Shane Doan has four goals in his last four games. Doan has scored 13 times since the Christmas break.

Although he only has a pair of assists in his last five games, Brent Burns has been an offensive machine on the blue-line for the Sharks this year, with 46 points in 53 games.

Injury Report

Joe Vitale has been ruled out for the rest of the season with lingering concussion issues. Mike Smith is not expected back until March at the earliest, while Boyd Gordon remains week-to-week.

Brenden Dillon is the only players considered questionable for tonight's game for the Sharks.

Puck Drop

Late start for Coyotes fans, as this one gets underway at 8:30 PM Arizona time. You can watch the game on Fox Sports Arizona or listen on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.