San Jose Sharks (39-30-9) at Arizona Coyotes (23-47-8), 9 p.m. (ET)
(SportsNetwork.com) – The San Jose Sharks may wind up missing the playoffs for the first time since 2003, but they aren’t planning to go down without a fight.
The Sharks hope to keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race on Saturday when they shoot for a home-and-home sweep of the Arizona Coyotes.
San Jose has won two straight to compile a 4-0-1 record over the last five games. The point streak has the Sharks three behind Los Angeles and Winnipeg in the battle for the last wild card spot in the West. However, the Jets and Kings each have five games remaining in the regular season compared to only four for San Jose. Winnipeg is hosting Vancouver on Saturday afternoon, while the Kings are at home tonight versus Colorado.
After beating the visiting Avalanche by a 5-1 count on Wednesday, the Sharks won another home test with Friday’s 3-1 decision over the Coyotes. San Jose hopes to earn its first three-game winning streak since Jan. 21-31 by completing the home-and-home sweep tonight at Arizona’s Gila River Arena.
Antti Niemi made 20 saves to anchor Friday’s win over the Coyotes, while Logan Couture posted a goal and an assist. Joe Pavelski and Matt Nieto also scored for the Sharks.
“It was a good win for us tonight,” said Niemi. “The guys did a real good job of keeping them away from the net and I was able to see the shots clearly tonight.”
It’s unclear if Niemi will start on consecutive nights. Both Niemi and fellow Sharks goaltender Alex Stalock have been bothered by illness lately. Until Friday, Stalock was the healthier of the two, leading him to start three straight games before Niemi took the reins last night. Although his cold had worsened by Friday, Stalock was able to suit up as the backup for the home- and-home opener.
Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed a third straight game on Friday with a lower-body injury and will also sit out tonight.
Mark Arcobello had the lone goal of the game for the Coyotes, who have dropped their past three and sit last in the Western Conference with only 54 points. Louis Domingue turned aside 34 shots in defeat.
“They came out fast like we expected,” said Domingue. “We were able to keep the score tight for a while but it’s hard when you have to come back from a two-goal deficit.”
Mike Smith will get the call in net tonight for the Coyotes. He is 8-5-2 with a 2.18 goals against average in 16 career outings versus the Sharks,
San Jose is 3-0 against the Coyotes this season and can complete a sweep of the season series tonight. The Sharks have won four straight and five of their last six road tests in this matchup.