Perhaps the biggest difference between the San Jose Sharks and Arizona Coyotes isn’t in the standings. It’s the depth of experience up and down the bench.
Looking to complete a sweep of the four-game season series, the Sharks go for their fifth straight win over the Coyotes on Tuesday night at SAP Center.
In less than 24 hours last weekend, San Jose improved to 14-3-3 against Pacific Division foes. After posting a 6-4 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday night, the Sharks rallied with two goals in the final 9:04 and topped the Anaheim Ducks, 3-2, in a shootout on Sunday.
Article continues below ...
With 68 points, San Jose (30-18-8) is second in the Pacific Division, two points ahead of the Calgary Flames, and three in front of the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Sharks center Logan Couture said after notching the winner in Sunday’s tiebreaker. “We’re excited for it. A lot of guys on our team have been around these battles for a while and it brings out the best of us, I believe, when we’re going down the stretch and battling for a spot.”
San Jose has missed the postseason only twice in last 20 seasons and is just two years removed from its only Stanley Cup finals appearance. Coach Peter DeBoer credits the current veterans with the experience needed to help the younger players, such as winger Timo Meier, who has two goals and two assists in a three-game run.
“There’s no doubt it starts there,” he told the San Jose Mercury News. “Those guys never change — Pav (Joe Pavelski), Burnzie (Brent Burns), Logan and (Marc-Edouard) Vlasic — their demeanor doesn’t change whether we’re up, whether we’re down.”
In three games against the Coyotes this season, Burns collected five of his team-high 39 assists, while Pavelski has four points (goal, three assists). Couture — the Sharks’ leader with 23 goals — scored twice and added a helper in the season series. He also has a goal and three assists in a three-game points streak.
One player who may benefit from facing Arizona is winger Joonas Donskoi. He’s failed to score in 13 games since registering two goals as part of his first career three-point game in the Sharks’ 6-5 overtime win over the Coyotes on Jan. 13.
In his last five games, San Jose’s Martin Jones is 2-2-1 despite recording a 1.96 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. He is 3-0-1 with 1.62 GAA and .927 percentage with a shutout in five career home starts versus Arizona.
Aaron Dell stopped 43 of 47 shots en route to two wins in as many starts against the Coyotes in 2017-18.
While Arizona (14-32-10) has not been officially eliminated from the playoffs, there’s no doubt it will be among the first. The Coyotes own the league’s worst record and will likely miss the postseason for the sixth straight year.
Arizona has 11 players who are 25 and younger, and many played key roles in a 6-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday night. Six players scored goals including Max Domi (22 years old), Clayton Keller (19), Tobias Rieder (25), and Christian Dvorak (21).
“We didn’t have a single passenger,” said Domi. “Everyone was contributing. Everyone wanted to be a part of it. No one let up.”
The six goals were a season high, however, Arizona is 0-6-2 this season in the back end of games played on consecutive nights, and has not beaten San Jose since posting a 3-2 shootout win on Feb. 4, 2017.
Veterans Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Derek Stepan — 26 and 27, respectively — lead the Coyotes with a goal and two assists each against the Sharks.
Antti Raanta, who is 28, made 36 saves against his former club on Monday. He is 0-1-1 against San Jose this season despite allowing only two goals on 31 shots.
Scott Wedgewood — 25 years old — is 0-5-4 with a 3.89 GAA and .894 save percentage in his last 10 road games, including nine starts. He made 38 saves in the overtime loss to the Sharks last month.