Sharks-Coyotes Preview

The San Jose Sharks' playoff hopes have not completely faded, but a loss to the lowly Arizona Coyotes would likely seal the deal.

Another San Jose victory is likely in Arizona's best interests, too.

After working through the first leg of a home-and-home, the Sharks will rematch with the Coyotes on Saturday night in Phoenix.

San Jose (39-30-9) has 87 points and trails second wild-card Los Angeles by three, although the Kings have one game in hand.

The Sharks' upcoming schedule could help the cause. With four games left, they'll play three teams outside the playoff picture, then finish the season in Los Angeles.

First, they'll again face the Coyotes (23-47-8) after beating them 3-1 in San Jose on Friday. Logan Couture had a goal and an assist, and Joe Pavelski scored his Western Conference-leading 37th goal.

''We talked a while ago about playing well and putting a string of wins together and see what happens,'' coach Todd McLellan said. ''The guys have done a good job. I don't think they're getting too far ahead. I don't think we feel any more comfortable now than we did a week ago. We shouldn't. We still need a lot of help.''

Arizona managed only 21 shots, its fewest in 10 games and fifth fewest all season.

''They're a team with lots to play for and we didn't execute under pressure,'' coach Dave Tippett said. ''We didn't match their desperation.''

Antti Niemi earned the win in his first appearance since missing three straight with an illness. He has started every game against the Coyotes this season and posted a 3-0-1 record and 1.96 goals-against average, although he may cede the net to backup Alex Stalock on Saturday.

Stalock was 2-0-1 with a 1.58 GAA in Niemi's absence.

The loss for the Coyotes keeps them at 54 points, only two more than NHL-worst Buffalo. The Sabres surrendered two late goals to Chicago on Friday to lose in regulation and stay behind Phoenix.

The worst record will have a league-best 20 percent chance at earning the top pick at the NHL draft lottery, while the second-worst record will have a 13.5 percent chance. No team can drop more than one slot from where it finishes.

Arizona has been remarkably bad to get to this point, going 3-20-1 since Feb. 10. Mike Smith has earned all three of those wins and will be in net Saturday.

Smith, whose 3.14 goals-against average is among the worst in the league, allowed three goals on Feb. 13 to lose his only appearance against the Sharks this season. His career .941 save percentage versus San Jose, however, is his best against any opponent.

Mark Arcobello has been one of few bright spots for the Coyotes these past few months. He was acquired off waivers on Feb. 11 and has scored eight goals in 23 games, including two against San Jose. Arcobello had netted only 12 goals in 92 career games prior to joining the Coyotes.

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