SHARKS (23-8-6) at COYOTES (19-10-7)
TV: CSN-CA, KTVK
Last 10: San Jose 4-5-1; Phoenix 4-3-3
Season series: This is the third of four games. The teams have split their first two games, with the Phoenix Coyotes winning 3-2 in a shootout against the San Jose Sharks at SAP Center in the most recent game Nov. 2. The teams will not play again until April 12, which marks the final game this season for San Jose.
Big story: The Coyotes are in fifth place in the Pacific Division with 45 points, seven behind third-place San Jose. The teams have been heading in opposite directions since the middle of the month, with the Sharks 3-1-0 and Phoenix 1-1-2 since Dec. 17.
Sharks: San Jose has won four of six games following a slump that saw it drop four straight in early December, but is dealing with the news that rookie forward Tomas Hertl will miss more than a month due to a right-knee injury that will require surgery. Hertl, who leads all rookies with 15 goals and 25 points, sustained the injury on a knee-on-knee collision with Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown last Thursday.
San Jose has won both games it's played without Hertl in shootouts, 3-2 against Dallas on Saturday and 5-4 against the Colorado Avalanche on Monday.
Coach Todd McLellan will experiment with different line combinations in Hertl's absence.
"We'll shuffle people around over the next little bit until we find comfortable combinations again," he said before the Colorado game. "We're still not at where we need to be and where we were, so despite beating Dallas and coming from behind, we still have work to do and we're trying to find the right way of getting it done."
Coyotes: Phoenix is 10-3-2 at Jobing.com Arena, where they'll play seven of their next eight. The return to home ice might help the Coyotes rediscover their scoring touch; they have scored 53 goals in 15 home games (3.53 per game) compared to 54 goals in 21 road games (2.57).
A 2-1 overtime loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Monday dropped the Coyotes to 2-2-2 over their past six games. They scored 14 goals in the six games, with six of those coming in a 6-3 win against the New York Islanders on Dec. 12.
Goalie Mike Smith, who made 48 saves in the Nov. 2 shootout win against San Jose, was embarrassed by his team's performance against the Sabres, who dressed 18 players after the flu hit the team.
"That was embarrassing as far as I'm concerned," he said. "You go on a Christmas break, you have three days off, and you come out like that? I think that's a bunch of garbage as far as far as I'm concerned."
Who's hot: Sharks center Joe Pavelski has three goals his past four games, including the game-tying goal against Colorado with 20 seconds left in regulation. Center Joe Thornton, who leads the NHL with 35 assists, has six assists his past five games. … Coyotes forward Antoine Vermette scored a hat trick, including the game-winner in overtime, against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday. He has 12 goals. Smith is 1-2-2 his past five games despite a .937 save percentage.
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