Patrick Marleau is off to a fast start for the San Jose Sharks. A matchup with the Phoenix Coyotes, though, could slow the veteran winger.
One of the leaders of a surging Sharks offense, Marleau looks to end his struggles against the Coyotes on Monday night.
San Jose (3-2-0) has scored 18 goals in its last four games, going 3-1-0 after losing its opener 5-2 at Colorado on Oct. 1. The Sharks scored four times in less than 9 minutes to turn their last game around, beating Minnesota 4-2 on Saturday night.
Marleau had his best game of the season, finishing with two goals and one assist. He has five goals in five games after finding the back of the net a career-high 38 times last season.
Marleau, though, has one goal in his last 16 games against Phoenix (2-2-0). Still, San Jose managed to go 10-4-2 in those contests.
Dany Heatley, who has scored a goal in three straight games versus the Coyotes, has helped take some of the pressure off Marleau. Heatley, acquired in a trade with Ottawa on Sept. 12, is tied for the team lead with 10 points (five goals, five assists).
Marleau and Heatley have helped San Jose overcome a shaky start by goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who has a 3.32 goals-against average.
Nabokov gave up 13 goals in four games before a strong effort against the Wild. His 38 saves were his most in a victory since stopping 40 in a 4-3 win at Colorado on Nov. 15, 2006.
“When guys help with rebounds, that is huge,” Nabokov said. “Sometimes you have to get lucky. That’s part of any game. I never worry about how many shots. To me sometimes, the more shots, the better.”
Nabokov is 9-6-2 with two ties and a 2.27 GAA in 21 home games against Phoenix.
The Coyotes have been struggling offensively, totaling one goal in losing their last two games. They went 0 for 7 on the power play and failed to convert on two 5-on-3 chances in a 3-0 loss to Columbus on Saturday night.
“We had two of them and we didn’t get one,” said winger Shane Doan, who remains without a goal after scoring a career-high 31 last season. “That’s unacceptable.”
Radim Vrbata leads the Coyotes with three goals, but he’s been held off the scoresheet in back-to-back games.
The Coyotes have been focusing on defense under coach Dave Tippett, hired when Wayne Gretzky quit nine days before the team’s season opener. Phoenix has given up two goals or fewer in each of its last three contests.
Ilya Bryzgalov’s strong play in net has played a large role in the Coyotes’ success. He has a 1.34 GAA in three games after posting a career-worst 2.98 GAA last season.
Bryzgalov is 3-3-0 with a 1.68 GAA in eight road games versus the Sharks.
San Jose and Phoenix split last season’s series 3-3-0.