After failing to keep pace with the reigning Stanley Cup champions in the battle for fourth place in the Western Conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, the Sharks attempt to end their road trip on a high note when they visit the Pacific Division rival Phoenix Coyotes tonight.
San Jose dropped a 2-1 decision to the Dallas Stars on Saturday, while the Los Angeles Kings edged the division-leading Anaheim Ducks by the same score to move three points ahead of the Sharks for fourth in the conference. San Jose, which is 1-2-0 on its four-game trek, faces a desperate Phoenix club before hosting Los Angeles on Tuesday.
The Coyotes occupy 11th place in the West but are just two points behind eighth-place Dallas, which owns the tiebreaker. Phoenix returns home to face San Jose after a road trip during which it earned only three of a possible six points. It then heads out on another three-game trek before again hosting the Sharks on April 24. The Coyotes are 1-1-1 in the five-game season series, with each of the first three meetings being played at San Jose.
The theme echoed around the locker room after Saturday’s loss was that it was “just one of those nights.” Captain Joe Thornton and T.J. Galiardi said it, while defenseman Dan Boyle thinks San Jose “deserved a better fate.”
Sharks vs. Coyotes
Coach Todd McLellan, however, felt the Sharks got exactly what they deserved.
“We’ve got to play every minute of all 60 as hard as we can, and I thought that was probably our downfall,” he said. “We probably gave away 13 or 14 minutes of valuable time, and it cost us.”
At 14-1-5, the Sharks are the only team in the league with fewer than three regulation losses at home. San Jose is 8-2-1 in its last 11 games and Antti Niemi has made 19 straight starts.
Things won’t get any easier for Phoenix after hosting San Jose, as it takes to the road to face three teams ahead of it in the standings — the sixth-place St. Louis Blues, the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings, who entered Sunday even in points with Dallas but in ninth place due to the tiebreaker.
Coyotes captain Shane Doan understands his team must play with desperation and attempt to duplicate last season’s accomplishment of winning its final five regular-season games.
“The walls are getting tighter and tighter, so we’re going to have to find ways to get more points,” he told the team’s website. “If we win every game, I’m sure we’ll go in [to the playoffs], but it’s going to be tough. We can only get two points at a time.”