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Coyotes at Sharks: Need to stay ahead of the pack

The Sharks have a chance to pick up two more points against the worst team in the league.

Jan 16, 2018; Glendale, AZ, USA; San Jose Sharks right wing Kevin Labanc (62) checks Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson (23) during the first period at Gila River Arena. Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

The San Jose Sharks will host the Arizona Coyotes tonight. The last time these two teams played was a home and home series in the middle of January. The Sharks won in overtime at SAP on January 13 during an offense heavy, defense light 6-5 affair. Three days later, the Sharks skated out of Gila River Arena with a 3-2 shootout win.

The Sharks currently sit in second place in the Pacific Division with a 30-18-8 record. The Coyotes are in a much different position. They are eighth in the division with a 14-32-10 record.

San Jose has a two game winning streak on the line after beating the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in the shootout on Sunday. Youngster Timo Meier scored the game tying goal in the final minute of the third period, while Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski and Martin Jones combined to win the shootout.

Arizona is still trying to find its identity. The Coyotes offense exploded last night, scoring six goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 6-1 last night. But the team also struggled to pull out a win in a 3-4 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

Can the Sharks play the full 60 minutes?

The Coyotes are an interesting challenge. They have a talented group of youngsters, but the consistency isn’t there yet. It’s why they’re at the bottom of the pack in the Pacific Division. In order to gain two points tonight, the Sharks will need to play a full 60 minute game, something they’ve struggled to do lately. If they give the Coyotes some breathing room, Arizona will score.

It’s up to the Sharks to control the game from puck drop to the final buzzer. The Coyotes are on the second night of back-to-back games plus travel. If the Sharks jump on them early, then they should be able to win in regulation.

Can the Sharks stay strong on defense?

Arizona’s offense is hot right now. The Coyotes have scored 12 goals in their last three games. Six different Coyote players scored last night and 11 different players had points. With the Coyotes offense firing on all cylinders, it will be up to the Sharks’ defense to slow them down.

Can Joe Pavelski’s line stay hot?

Pavelski has six points in his last three games; Meier has four points. It’s important that both stay hot, no matter who slots in on the other wing. Head coach Pete DeBoer’s ability to role four impactful lines is the real key to the Sharks’ success and the Pavelski line is a big piece of that.

The Sharks veterans know what’s at stake this time of year. This is a MUST WIN game, given how close the playoff standings are. The veterans will teach the kids how to take care of a faltering team like the Coyotes and keep pace in the division.

Bold Prediction: The Sharks will win 3-1. San Jose will come out strong and get the first goal before basically smothering the Coyotes into submission.

We’ll have the starting line ups and an open game thread an hour before puck drop. In the meantime, drop your own bold prediction below!