Nothing feels quite as good as a victory over the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center, so thank god the Sharks pulled that off with ease yesterday afternoon. Let’s keep the good times rolling, as they take on the Arizona Coyotes tonight in Glendale.
The new year hasn’t gone off exactly as the Sharks would’ve hoped. In six games so far, they’ve earned a split, winning three. Three of those game have gone to overtime, earning them an additional point in each of the games against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Ottawa Senators.
Despite a third game skid on their Eastern Canada road trip this month, the Sharks have been a fairly good road team this season. More impressively, they’re a powerhouse against division and conference opponents, boasting a 10-2-3 division record and 12-4-4 conference record so far.
That makes for easy pickings against Arizona, who have lost as many division games as the Sharks have won (1-7-4). They also can’t seem to buy a win a home, with a 5-14-2 record, which certainly makes home ice advantage look like a myth to this team.
So what’s going on with Coyotes? After losing 20 games to start the season and currently sitting on a three game losing streak, only winning four of their last 20, they’re on pace to only win 18 games over the entire season. “Struggling” isn’t a strong enough term for what’s happening in Arizona.
The Coyotes will come into tonight with the advantage of rest. They haven’t played since their OT loss in San Jose on Saturday. The game was within reach to be a rare win for them, but Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s overtime heroics crushed their dreams. They’ve had two day to sit, stew, and plan their revenge, so the Sharks — who are playing their third game in four days — should expect the best from this Coyotes team, even in their best isn’t all that great.
Will exhaustion be a factor?
Not only do the Coyotes get the home ice advantage, they have the advantage of rest. While these might not have had as much of an impact on the Coyotes, if for no other reason than they just can’t win at all, there’s still the question as to the effect it’ll have on the Sharks. The aforementioned three game skid earlier this month? That happened while the Sharks were in the midst of five games over eight days, a feat they’ll also have to pull off this week. Meanwhile, in December, their most successful month this season, they never played more than four games in any eight day stretch. The Sharks are old — their average age is 27.8, compared to the Coyotes 25.4 — so it gets harder to recover night to night.
After tonight, the Sharks will be playing every other night until the 25th. They need to bank these points, before they get really tired down the stretch.
Can the fourth line stay solid?
Oh boy, that fourth line last night, yeah? With Marcus Sorensen back to the Barracuda, the line up is getting filled out with more veterans. Barclay Goodrow returning to center this season for the first time since juniors has made for an effective fourth line. He seems to have found some kind of chemistry with Joel Ward. While Melker Karlsson didn’t have a stand out night against L.A., there’s still room for him to have an impact, as well.
Will goaltending stand strong?
Though three nights ago, they saw Scott Wedgewood, tonight the Sharks will be trying to put pucks past Antti Raanta. In 23 games this season, Raanta has put up a .915 save percentage.
Aaron Dell will be starting in net tonight for the Sharks. Last time these teams met, Martin Jones started the night, but was replaced by Dell after allowing three goals on nine shots. Once in net, Dell earned his first career point, an assist on Joonas Donskoi’s second period goal against the Coyotes. Jones stood strong against L.A. last night, so Aaron Dell the playmaker should be ready for the Desert Dogs.
Bold prediction: Deller with the shut out. Let’s chalk up the five goals the Coyotes scored last time as a fluke.
Check back later for lines and a discussion thread, but in the meantime drop our own bold prediction below!