The San Jose Sharks are intent on defending their Western Conference title, but to get the chance to do so they'll need to keep collecting points against the NHL's weaker teams.
That means beating the Arizona Coyotes for the first time in 2016-17.
The Sharks will try to close a lengthy homestand on a positive note Tuesday night, when they welcome the last-place Coyotes to the SAP Center for the first time this season.
Article continues below ...
San Jose (12-9-1) dropped the first two meetings with the Coyotes, 3-2 in regulation on Nov. 1 and by the same score in overtime on Nov. 19. In northern California, however, the Sharks won four in a row from Arizona — including two straight by shutout — and picked up at least one point in 11 straight matchups (8-0-3).
“For them, in this building, they just want to pound shots on net, kind of create some chaos down there, so we have to be aware of that,” Coyotes defenseman Alex Goligoski told the team's official website after Monday's practice.
San Jose won three of four on its current homestand to improve to 7-3-0 at SAP Center. The defending West champs begin play Monday tied with the Los Angeles Kings for second place, one point behind the Pacific Division-leading Edmonton Oilers.
The Sharks fell to 1-1-0 in the second games of back-to-back contests with Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. San Jose coach Peter DeBoer wouldn't say that the quick turnaround was the reason for the defeat.
“I don't think it's as much the back-to-back as the last seven, eight, nine days,” he said. “There's no doubt it takes a toll. “
Logan Couture has been a sparkplug for the Sharks at home so far. His goal versus the Ducks was his fourth of the season on home ice — all on the power play.
Brent Burns's streak of three straight multi-point games ended in the loss, but he's also scored four times at home to tie Couture for the team high. Burns, named the league's third star of the week on Monday, leads all NHL defensemen in scoring (eight goals, 12 assists), and posted six assists in his last six home games against Arizona.
Joe Pavelski comes into this contest on a six-game points streak (two goals, four assists). He's the Sharks' top scorer at home with 10 points (three goals, seven assists), and is especially productive at home against the Coyotes with six goals — four coming with the man advantage — and eight assists over the last 11 matchups.
Pavelski and Burns are also tied for the Sharks' scoring lead with 20 points each.
Martin Jones was in net Saturday, and is 2-1-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average, a .953 save percentage and a shutout during the homestand. While Jones has yet to beat Arizona this season, he's turned away 42 of 43 shots in two career home starts against them.
Though they're bringing up the rear in the conference, the Coyotes (8-10-2) are in search of their season-high third straight win after topping the Oilers 2-1 on Sunday to complete a home-and-home sweep. Radim Vrbata and Jamie McGinn scored for the Coyotes, who are 3-1-2 in the last six on the road after opening that portion of their schedule with five straight losses.
“I think we've definitely improved. The early road trip hurt us and we learned some lessons from that. The last little while here our games have looked better … we've just got to keep building every day,” Goligoski said.
Vrbata and Max Domi spearhead Arizona's offense with 14 points apiece. But both players have proved to be more production on the road — Vrbata with four goals and four assists and Domi with a goal and seven helpers.
Vrbata scored four goals in a three-game streak at SAP Center, and five in his last six games in San Jose. Domi is still in search of his first career point on the road against the Sharks.
Another player San Jose's defense will want to look out for is Jordan Martinook, who's scored all five of his goals this season on the road.
Mike Smith stopped 41 shots Sunday for his first win three tries on the road. He made a season-high 43 saves in the win over the Sharks on Nov. 19.
As a member of the Coyotes, Smith is 3-4-1 with a 2.09 GAA, a .946 save percentage and two shutouts over his career in San Jose.