GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Sharks will have had four days to stew on back-to-back losses by the time the Coyotes take the ice Saturday for a matinee meeting at HP Pavilion. San Jose wasn’t beaten in regulation in its first eight games before the Ducks and Blackhawks stalled what had been a torrid start with 2-1 and 5-3 wins in Anaheim and San Jose, respectively.
Will that mean a more focused approach Saturday? Maybe, but maybe it won’t matter, because the Coyotes have their own anger issues. Thursday’s 6-2 loss to Chicago was the low point of the season for Phoenix, which got outworked, outsmarted and outclassed from wire to wire.
“When you give up five power-play opportunities, one soft goal, two 5-on-3 goals and one where we had nobody willing to cover anybody … it makes it kind of an uphill battle the rest of the night,” coach Dave Tippett said. “I hope that’s a blip on the radar screen, because there’s a lot of stuff right there that is not going to be happening on our team. We’ll correct some of those problems.”
The Coyotes thought they had corrected many of those problems already during a five-game unbeaten streak (3-0-2), but they finished up their homestand with a resounding step backward and now must play their next three games away from Jobing.com Arena, with games at Colorado and surging Nashville also slated for this trip.
On face value, two of the next three games represent difficult tasks, and the Predators, like the Blackhawks, will have added motivation after the Coyotes eliminated them in the Western Conference semifinals last season. But after Tippett called out his captain (Shane Doan) and assistant captain (Keith Yandle) for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for yapping at the officials Thursday, it’s a safe bet that the Coyotes will bring a more focused, blue-collar approach to northern California this weekend.
“(Friday’s practice is) going to be a day of accountability, I’m sure,” Doan said. “Getting beat the way we got beat — I don’t care what the reason is or what the lead-up is — you’re going to be embarrassed.”
THREE KEY OPPONENT STATS
Red-hot or ice-cold? Sharks forward Patrick Marleau is second in the NHL with nine goals, but all of those came in the team’s first five games. Marleau is pointless in his last four games and is minus-3 over that stretch.
Five fizzling futures: The Sharks’ recent history has been characterized by strong regular seasons and playoff flameouts. Maybe that’s fueling their hot start this year. Here’s another theory: Time is running out. Following this shortened season, San Jose will have five key players — Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle, Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski — entering the final year of their contracts. There is little time left for the Sharks to achieve their potential.
2.0: San Jose’s 2.0 goals-against average is the second-best mark in the Western Conference to Nashville’s NHL-best 1.80. San Jose has allowed more than two goals just once in its last seven games (Chicago had five on Tuesday).
THREE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
Desert dominance: Phoenix went 4-1-1 against San Jose last season and hasn’t lost to the Sharks in regulation in the last five meetings. Following a 6-3 loss in last year’s season opener, the Coyotes outscored the Sharks 16-6 over the final five meetings. Forward Radim Vrbata had four goals in five games against San Jose last season.
Stable ownership: It’s a sore subject for Coyotes fans given their team’s nomadic wanderings through the desert for the past four years without an owner, but San Jose Mercury News Beat writer David Pollak wrote an interesting profile of Sharks owner Hasso Plattner, rated by Forbes as the 127th-richest man in the world.
Their youth is showing: There’s been a lot of talk about the Coyotes’ stable of young defensemen and that group giving the front office bargaining power on the trade market. But with David Schlemko out of the lineup for an extended period of time and Rusty Klesla still nursing a bum shoulder, none of the trio of Chris Summers, Michael Stone and David Rundblad has stood out thus far in extended opportunities. In fact, the opposite may be true, as all three have been victimized by poor decision-making, like Summers’ decision to pinch that led to Viktor Stalberg’s opening goal Thursday night for the Blackhawks. It’s important to remember that none of these players has reached his 25th birthday yet. There is still time, but none has proven he is ready for this step yet.
For the Coyotes, F Matthew Lombardi (shoulder) and D David Schlemko (shoulder) are out indefinitely, and D Rusty Klesla (lower body) is day-to-day. For the Sharks, D Brent Burns (sports hernia, IR) is close to playing, but coach Todd McLellan said Saturday might be a bit soon for his return.