After going 3-1-1 on a final road swing, the San Jose Sharks maintained the top spot in the NHL Pacific Division at 10-1-2. Yet the Phoenix Coyotes have a chance to draw even in standings points with a regulation win in their clash at SAP Center Saturday, November 2.
The Sharks started the season out with six wins and points in their first nine, including a 4-1 win over the Coyotes in the second game of their 2013-14 NHL season. That game preview covers the personnel comparisons, with a couple expected changes according to CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz: Dan Boyle and Matt Nieto are expected to return.
Brad Stuart and Martin Havlat are also new to the active roster from the first meeting of the Pacific Division rivals, and Brent Burns is not expected back while he did play in that early-season contest. Since then, the teams have been basically even.
While 3-1-1 is a good record when four of the five games are three time zones away, Phoenix was able to close the gap by winning five of six. Those wins were in Arizona, but the best time to get a team is the the last game they are on the road or the first time they are at home. Even the two pairs of fresh legs San Jose will have are not going to be in game shape right away.
Still, the Shark Tank under any official name has been extremely inhospitable in 2013. No NHL team has as good a point- or winning-percentage nor as many wins in the calendar year at home—17-2-5 in the condensed 2013 season, all five home games in the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs and all five so far this season.
Moreover, they will get a boost with Nieto's return to the third line. Tyler Kennedy is skating on the first line, Havlat takes his spot on the second and James Sheppard falls Mike Brown and Andrew Desjardins on the fourth. San Jose's home-ice and personnel advantages should more than compensate for higher fatigue so early in the season. Mike Smith is generally tough on this team, but he will face a lot more rubber and thus lose in a shootout, 3-2.