Sharks look to regain top seed out West

By Alan Ferguson
Stats Writer

San Jose (45-13-10) at Phoenix (28-35-6), 10:00 p.m. EDT

GLENDALE, Arizona (AP) — Despite the San Jose Sharks’
continuing offensive struggles, Evgeni Nabokov has kept them in
the race for first in the Western Conference.

Nabokov will try to continue his success against the
conference’s last-place team and help the Sharks regain the
West’s top spot when they visit the woeful Phoenix Coyotes on
Tuesday night.

Thanks to consecutive victories since Nabokov’s return, San Jose
remains a point behind Detroit heading into Tuesday’s play with
the Red Wings hosting Philadelphia earlier in the evening.

With an upper-body injury keeping their top goaltender out for
seven games, the Sharks gave up 22 goals during a 2-4-1 stretch
to allow Detroit to take over the conference lead, but Nabokov
yielded one goal while winning two games this weekend.

He started with Saturday night’s 2-1 shootout win over Los
Angeles, then posted his sixth shutout of the season the next
evening in Anaheim – a 1-0 victory that clinched the team’s
fifth straight playoff berth.

Assisting Nabokov was one of the league’s best penalty-killing
units, which has denied opponents at an 84.2 percent clip and
has fended off 15 consecutive power plays.

“The effort was there tonight. It’s always good when the effort
is there,” Nabokov said following Sunday’s victory. “We killed
penalties pretty well. It wasn’t an easy game, but it was a road

While Nabokov has given the Sharks a boost, they still haven’t
solved their recent scoring woes. Travis Moen scored the only
goal Sunday for San Jose, which has averaged 1.73 goals in its
last 11 games and has failed to capitalize on 17 straight
power-play opportunities.

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Joe Thornton leads the team with 74 points but has none in the
last three games. He hasn’t gone four straight without a point
since November 28-December 4, 2006.

Patrick Marleau, who has a team-best 35 goals, has scored once
in the last eight contests. Devin Setoguchi, third on the Sharks
with 53 points, has one assist and no goals in his last 10.

The offense hasn’t been particularly sharp recently against
Phoenix, scoring 20 goals in the last eight meetings, but
Nabokov has been. He is 9-1-1 with a 1.53 goals-against average
in his last 12 starts versus the Coyotes.

Nabokov has won both of his starts against them this season, not
allowing a goal in the last 116 minutes, 47 seconds.

Should Nabokov start Tuesday, he’ll face a team that hasn’t
scored more than twice in nine straight games.

A five-game skid has dropped Phoenix, which has a league-low 166
goals, into the West cellar – a point behind Colorado. The
Coyotes are 4-16-1 since the All-Star break, scoring 41 goals,
and have one win in their last nine home games.

They failed to capitalize on one of Ilya Bryzgalov’s better
performances of the season in Saturday night’s 2-0 loss to
visiting Nashville. Bryzgalov allowed one goal on 32 shots, but
his teammates managed only 18 – eight in the first two periods.

“The problem is it was all in the third period,” Coyotes captain
Shane Doan said. “Eight shots after two periods in your home
building, it’s embarrassing. It’s going to be better moving
forward. It will be better.”

San Jose is 11-2-2 in the last 15 meetings.