The San Jose Sharks (25-14-7) head to Phoenix to take on the Coyotes (19-18-8) a night after clinching their ninth consecutive NHL playoff berth in a comeback win at home.
The Coyotes are pretty much out of the playoff race at this point but will still want to play the part of spoiler against a Sharks team who is fighting for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Their 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Monday pretty much sealed their fate.
In order for San Jose to be in perfect position for that ever important fourth playoff spot the Sharks will need a win tonight more than ever. The team they are chasing, the Los Angeles Kings, also play tonight against the Red Wings. If the Kings win then San Jose must win tonight.
Why? Because the Kings host San Jose for the last game of the season for both teams, and if the Sharks defeat Los Angeles in that game the fourth seed is theirs. This is only one possibility, but probably the likeliest at this point.
Leading the way in points for the Desert Dogs this evening is winger Mikkel Boedker. He has 25 total points on the season including seven goals and 18 assists. Defenseman Keith Yandle, who struggled offensively to start the season, is now second on the team with 24 points including nine goals and 15 points. Also, don’t rule out captain Shane Doan who leads the team with 13 goals this season and is tied with Yandle for 24 total points.
For the Sharks both Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski are heating up at exactly the right time. Couture has now tallied six points (3G, 3 A) in his last three games and is the team’s leading goal scorer. Third line center man Pavelski has scored a goal in each of his last three games and had developed great chemistry with San Jose newcomer Raffi Torres. Torres scored again last night and was a catalyst for many Sharks’ scoring chances last night.
What To Watch For
After the high-energy game from last night the Sharks might start out slow, and with good reason. They will need every ounce of energy they have left in the tank to come out strong against a Coyotes team that will be playing desperate all night.
It will also be interesting to see who gets the call in net tonight. While I would lean toward Antti Niemi getting the call, tonight is the second half of a back-to-back and with only a couple games left until the playoffs the coaching staff may want to rest him one more time. However, with home-ice advantage on the line, they may want the Vezina candidate in net for tonight.