Sharks-Coyotes Preview

The Associated Press

The San Jose Sharks have rediscovered their scoring touch while boasting the same stingy defense they displayed just before the All-Star break.

That may not bode well for the struggling Phoenix Coyotes.

San Jose seeks a fourth straight victory overall and an 11th in the last 13 meetings with Phoenix on Saturday night at Arena.

The Sharks tallied only six goals while losing three of four prior to All-Star weekend, but they've put those low-scoring efforts behind them by beating Columbus 6-0 on Tuesday and Dallas 5-2 on Thursday.

Pacific Division-leading San Jose (29-14-6) went 2 for 5 on the power play against the Stars and has converted 5 of 13 chances (38.5 percent) in its last five games.

"Our power play got us two and I thought our penalty kill was good too," coach Todd McLellan said. "The power play is starting to look like it should. There is some emotion."

Ryane Clowe returned with a goal Thursday after missing the previous six games with a facial fracture.

"I felt stronger as the game went on," he said. "There were a couple of times early when I got the puck in the neutral zone and got caught from behind. I had to remind myself to keep my feet moving. I had to get up to the pace."

The Sharks' defense has picked up where it left off before the break. Opponents have scored three goals in the last four games, and Thomas Greiss stopped 19 Dallas shots after Antti Niemi suffered a lower-body injury in practice Wednesday.

However, it was Mike Smith and the Coyotes' defense that stole the show in the most recent meeting between these teams, as Smith made 31 saves in a 3-0 win Nov. 12.

Phoenix (22-21-8) hasn't had much success lately, though, going 4-8-5 since its last back-to-back victories Dec. 20 and 21.

Smith allowed three goals on 18 shots and was pulled midway through the second period in the Coyotes' 4-1 loss to Anaheim on Tuesday.

They went ahead on Ray Whitney's goal in the first period but couldn't hang on.

"We had control of the game and we let it get away," captain Shane Doan said. "We never capitalized on our opportunities."

The Coyotes are 12 points back of the Sharks for the division lead, but only five behind eighth-place Minnesota in the Western Conference playoff race.

If they're to catch up, they'll likely need improvement from a power-play unit that has gone 2 for 26 (7.7 percent) over the last 11 games.

Phoenix converted a season-high three times with the man advantage - two by Doan - in its season opener Oct. 8, but it fell 6-3 to San Jose.

Andrew Desjardins and Joe Pavelski each scored twice in that Sharks victory, which marked their 10th in 11 meetings with the Coyotes prior to Phoenix's win in November.

Pavelski has six goals in his last six games versus Phoenix.

It's unclear if Niemi will be healthy enough to go Saturday, or if Greiss will make his third start versus the Coyotes this season.

Greiss has gone 3-0-1 with a 1.22 goals-against average in his last four overall, while Niemi is 5-1-1 with a 2.12 GAA lifetime versus Phoenix.

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