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Friday, April 8th (All times eastern)
San Jose Sharks (47-24-9) at Phoenix Coyotes (42-25-13), 10 p.m.
(Sports Network) - Though it wouldn't happen if the playoffs started today, there is still a chance the Coyotes and Sharks could meet in the postseason. That could be bad news for Phoenix.
Of course, the Coyotes still have to officially punch their ticket to the playoffs and could do so tonight with a point against San Jose, which has won eight straight in this series.
Phoenix hosts the opener of this home-and-home set at Jobing.com Arena tied with Nashville for fifth overall in the Western Conference with 97 points, one back of fourth-place Los Angeles. The Coyotes are also four points up on the ninth-place Stars, who host the Avalanche tonight. Phoenix can clinch its second straight trip to the postseason with a point in this game or a loss by Dallas.
The Coyotes have earned a point in three straight, with each of those games going to a shootout. Phoenix won the first against Dallas back on March 29, but has dropped two straight breakaway contests since. That includes Wednesday's 3-2 loss to Los Angeles in a game where the winner clinched a playoff spot.
Lee Stempniak and Taylor Pyatt both had a goal and an assist, while Ilya Bryzgalov made 31 saves.
"When the games are really important and everything's on the line, that's when you want to be out there and playing your best. I think it's good to get into that mindset," Stempniak said.
Phoenix, which is 20-13-7 at home and will visit San Jose on Saturday, is starting to get healthy as well. Defenseman Ed Jovanovski played for the first time since suffering fractured orbital bones on Feb. 17, while center Martin Hanzal is a game-time decision to return from a 13-game absence caused by a lower-body injury.
The Coyotes would also like to solve the Sharks prior to the postseason. Phoenix is 0-5-3 since their last win in this series on Dec. 12, 2009, getting outscored 17-7 in the four meetings this year.
San Jose has won four straight and nine of its past 14 at Phoenix, but is coming off a 6-2 defeat at Anaheim on Wednesday. It was the Sharks' first game since clinching their fourth straight Pacific Division title.
Dan Boyle and Ben Eager scored the goals, while Antero Niittymaki yielded six goals on 34 shots in his first start since Jan. 13. Antero Niittymaki had made the past 34 starts.
"It's frustrating, but hopefully it's for the better," Sharks forward Dany Heatley said of the loss. "We didn't come prepared tonight."
San Jose, which had a four-game winning streak end, sits second overall in the West with 103 points, one up on Detroit. Both teams have two games to play and the Red Wings host the Blackhawks tonight.
04/08 11:16:15 ET
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