Sharks bring slumping offense to Arizona

( – The San Jose Sharks will try to get their offense going
when they attempt to avoid a third consecutive loss in Tuesday’s road clash
against the Arizona Coyotes.

San Jose has lost two straight and was outscored by a combined 10-3 margin in
the losses against St. Louis and the New York Rangers.

After dropping a 7-2 road decision Thursday against the Blues, San Jose
returned home and lost 3-1 to the Rangers on Saturday. The loss to New York
marked the sixth time in the last nine game that the Sharks were held to two
goals or fewer.

San Jose sent 31 shots on net Saturday but only managed to score once against
Henrik Lundqvist despite getting star centerman Joe Thornton back in the
lineup. Thornton had one shot on net and was a minus-three while returning
from a four-game absence due to a shoulder injury.

Melker Karlsson supplied San Jose’s lone marker to extend his goal streak to
five games and Antti Niemi allowed two goals on 31 shots in defeat.

“It’s nice to score, but we lost,” said the rookie Karlsson, who has six goals
and four assists in 14 games. “I thought we played well. We had a good
forecheck that created some chances. We couldn’t get it in and they did.”

The Sharks enter tonight holding onto the second wild card spot in the West.
San Jose is two points ahead of Calgary and one point behind the Winnipeg

San Jose is 12-9-3 as the visiting team this season and tonight’s test marks
the club’s last road tilt until it plays in Calgary on Feb. 4. The Sharks are
scheduled to begin a seven-game homestand on Thursday when the Toronto Maple
Leafs come to town.

Arizona is hoping to rebound tonight after getting slammed 5-1 in Saturday’s
home game against Ottawa. The lopsided defeat dropped the Coyotes to 2-2-0 on
a six-game homestand that will end Thursday against the Flames.

After Mikkel Boedker put the Coyotes on top early in the game, Milan Michalek
and Clarke MacArthur scored first-period goals to give the Senators the lead
for good.

Mike Smith allowed all five Senators goals on 33 shots as the Coyotes fell to
9-10-3 on home ice this season.

Saturday’s loss marked the third time in five games Arizona had allowed five
or more goals.

“We’re not a very good defending team right now,” Arizona coach Dave Tippett
said. “We push and prod … maybe we have to try some other young players. You
can’t lose by six or five goals every night. If we’re going to be competitive
we need to defend better. I’d like to see more saves made, but I’d like to see
more NHL plays made in front. What’s happening now is unacceptable.”

It’s unclear if Smith or Devan Dubnyk will get the start in net tonight for
the Coyotes. Smith is 8-4-2 with a 2.12 goals against average in his career
against San Jose, while Dubnyk is 5-6-2 with a 3.08 GAA in this matchup.

Niemi boasts excellent career numbers against the Coyotes, going 12-4-4 with a
2.10 GAA in this series.

Arizona recorded a 4-3 shootout win in San Jose on Nov. 22 in the first of
five scheduled meetings between these Pacific Division foes. The Sharks have
still claimed five of eight overall in the series and have won two in a row
and three of four in the desert.