Sharks look to avoid third straight loss

By Dan Pieringer
Stats Writer

Phoenix (31-36-7) at San Jose (45-15-11), 10:30 p.m. EST

SAN JOSE, California (AP) — Though they still have one of the
best records in the NHL, the San Jose Sharks have shown signs of
vulnerability lately.

Getting back on track could be a challenge against a Phoenix
Coyotes team that’s made a recent habit of exposing the
weaknesses of Western Conference contenders.

The Sharks look to avoid a third straight defeat and continue
their home dominance of the Coyotes when the Pacific Division
rivals meet Saturday night.

San Jose (48-15-11) has already clinched its second consecutive
Pacific Division title with 107 points, one shy of the franchise
record it set last season.

The Sharks, though, haven’t looked like a dominant team in their
last two games. They lost 6-5 in a shootout at Chicago on
Wednesday night before falling 3-2 at Nashville on Thursday
night. They blew a two-goal lead by giving up three within a
2:38 stretch in the second period against the Predators.

San Jose converted two of its four power-play opportunities in
that game but didn’t get an even strength goal. Though the
Sharks rank among the league leaders with 235 total goals,
they’re in the bottom half with 145 at even strength.

“We didn’t score a goal 5-on-5, and that’s obviously been one of
the big problems the last few months,” defenseman Dan Boyle
said. “We need to show more poise and patience with the puck.”

The Sharks have eight games remaining before they hit the
playoffs as one of the favorites to win the West, alongside

“There’s not much time left to fine tune this thing,” Boyle
said. “We obviously need to play better hockey, and it hasn’t
been good enough consistently.”

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It wasn’t good enough last Tuesday in Phoenix, where the Sharks
lost 4-3 to the Coyotes, who had gone 0-4-1 in their previous
five games. Phoenix winger Shane Doan scored the game-winner
with 26.9 seconds remaining after recording an assist on each of
the team’s first three goals.

Starting with that win over San Jose, Phoenix (31-36-7) has gone
3-1-1 in its last five. Its other two wins in that stretch came
over playoff hopefuls Vancouver and Edmonton.

“How this team is responding is real positive,” coach Wayne
Gretzky said after a 3-2 win over the Oilers on Thursday night.
“I thought against Vancouver was a good effort, and again
tonight was an equally good effort. I’m really happy the way our
young guys are progressing.”

Gretzky’s club, last in the Pacific with 69 points, has split
its four meetings with San Jose this season. The Sharks, though,
have outscored the Coyotes 25-8 while going 6-0-1 in the teams’
last seven meetings at HP Pavilion, where they’re 30-3-4 this

Phoenix’s road struggles aren’t limited to San Jose. It’s 3-9-1
away from home since the All-Star break, including 0-4-1 in its
last five.

The Coyotes’ recent hot streak, however, has them feeling good
about a strong finish regardless of where they’re playing.

“I just want to make sure we get some wins here,” defenseman Ken
Klee told the team’s official Web site. “We are trying to build
some confidence and momentum going here where we feel good about
this team and the guys in the room, and the best way to do it is
to get wins.”