The San Jose Sharks and visiting Arizona Coyotes kick off a weekend back-to-back series starting on Friday night.
Friday’s game marks the seventh time this season the two West Division teams will meet. When these teams last met on April 28 in San Jose, the Sharks (21-26-6, 48 points) mounted an early lead and defeated the Coyotes 4-2. Arizona narrowly leads the season series 3-2-1.
The Coyotes (22-26-6, 50 points) are coming off a disheartening 4-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, their seventh loss in their last 10 games.
In that game, Arizona and Los Angeles entered the third period tied 2-2 before Kings forward Gabriel Vilardi made it 3-2 at the 4:42 mark. The Coyotes had an opportunity to tie the game back up with a chance on the power play at 7:56 but were unable to convert. Anze Kopitar set Sean Walker up for the Kings’ fourth goal at 19:23, sealing Arizona’s fate.
“For the most part, I think guys gave effort, but it’s tough when you don’t have the kind of ability to make the next play,” Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet told the media after Wednesday’s game. “(The Kings) had some chances and they scored goals. We didn’t. It’s just the story of the last six weeks.”
Wednesday’s loss officially eliminated Arizona from playoff contention. The Coyotes made the NHL playoffs last season for the first time since their 2011-2012 campaign.
“This group has never lost hope. This group battles but it just wasn’t enough,” Arizona defenseman Jakob Chychrun added. “We all have really learned from this last stretch of games here because we just didn’t get the job done.”
While the Sharks are also eliminated from playoff contention, they are coming off of a come-from-behind 3-2 victory on Wednesday over the playoff-bound Colorado Avalanche.
“It’s a measuring stick when you play teams like this,” head coach Bob Boughner said Wednesday. “It shows you where your game needs to be and it brings out the best in you. Even though our success against teams like Colorado and Vegas hasn’t been great in the standings, I think that it’s gotten better as the season has gone on. You know you have to bring your best on nights like this to give yourself a chance.”
The Sharks were down 2-0 in the second period of Wednesday’s game before Tomas Hertl put them on the board to cut it to 2-1 with 13 seconds left in the frame. Hertl scored again at the start of the third and tallied the secondary assist on Erik Karlsson’s power-play goal later in the period.
“A big goal, and that’s exactly what we fed off,” Boughner said of Hertl’s second-period marker. “Going into (the intermission) down 2-0 is a different situation against (Colorado) than a one-goal lead. I was proud of the way we responded in the third period, and we played a pretty solid game up until that point. I thought we did a better job of managing the puck at the right time.”
–Field Level Media