The Phoenix Coyotes are feeling a bit better after ending a seven-game losing streak with an impressive offensive showing.
Building on that performance could be difficult, however, with a likely matchup against San Jose’s Antti Niemi
Coming off a pair of shutouts, Niemi looks to help the Sharks extend their winning streak to four Saturday night against the visiting Coyotes.
After making 22 saves in Wednesday’s 4-0 win over Anaheim, Niemi stopped 27 shots the following night in a 2-0 victory over Detroit. Niemi, who has started 11 straight games for San Jose (16-11-6) with backup Thomas Greiss out with a neck injury, became the first goalie in franchise history to post shutouts on consecutive days.
“I wasn’t cheating or expecting anything else,” Niemi said. “I was just reading the play.”
Niemi was also on top of his game in San Jose’s last meeting with the Coyotes on Feb. 9, stopping all 21 shots through overtime before giving up two goals in the shootout in a 1-0 loss.
Each scored in the third consecutive game for the Sharks, who are in the midst of their longest winning streak since starting the season with seven straight victories. San Jose, which began its current run with a home-and-home sweep of Pacific Division-leading Anaheim, has won each of its last three in regulation - the same number of regulation victories it had in its previous 25 contests.
“We’re playing like a team,” coach Todd McLellan said. “Each line is contributing. We’ve come to a little bit of an agreement. I don’t know if we’ve actually talked about it but guys have come to the conclusion that we need to play a certain way to be successful.”
If the Coyotes can play the way they did in the first period against Nashville on Thursday, they should have no trouble being successful.
Phoenix (14-15-5) scored five times in a span of 6:40 and ended with six first-period goals en route to a 7-4 victory. The goal total was one shy of the number they had in the entirety of their skid.
“Whatever it takes, if it takes seven goals to win, that’s what we need right now,” said Radim Vrbata who had two goals and an assist in the first period. “It was a crazy first period. That’s not our style of play … but we will take whatever we can get.”
Martin Hanzal David Moss Matthew Lombardi Keith Yandle and Antoine Vermette also scored and Rostislav Klesla added a career-high four assists for the Coyotes, who had their highest-scoring game since beating San Jose 8-0 on Dec. 30, 2006.
“We’re a way better team when we are going forward instead of trying to chase it,” captain Shane Doan said. “We obviously have to be good in our own zone and be better defensively, but at the same time we have to be in attacking mindset and that makes us so much more effective.”
Mike Smith outdueled Niemi and stopped 33 shots in the last meeting, but has not played since March 21 because of an upper-body injury and will not travel to San Jose.
Jason LaBarbera who has allowed 11 goals in his last three starts, gave up four in Phoenix’s only other game against San Jose this season, a 5-3 loss on Jan. 24, and is 0-5-1 with a 3.12 goals-against average in his last seven games versus the Sharks.