Sharks-Coyotes: What to watch for

November 12, 2011, 8:27 pm
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SAN JOSE Thomas Greiss already has one win in the books this season against Phoenix. Hell try for his second tonight, when he returns to the net for the Sharks against the Coyotes at HP Pavilion.

Greiss, who sports an impressive 1.99 goals-against average and .928 save percentage, is making his first start since backstopping a 3-1 win against the Islanders on Oct. 29.

Hes earned the opportunity, and with the long break coming up between now and the Detroit game (on Thursday), and him not having started since our game on the Island, its important to get him back in, said Todd McLellan on Saturday morning.

Although its his first start of the month of November, Greiss came on in relief of Antti Niemi on Nov. 3 against Pittsburgh, helping the Sharks come from behind to defeat the high-powered Penguins. Hes seized his opportunity this season with Antero Niittymaki on the shelf until December at the earliest.

Hes one of just eight goalies in the NHL with a GAA under two.

I feel comfortable calling his number whenever, said McLellan, who mentioned that Griess has improved his game around the net.

Power play rolling at home: Patrick Marleau scored two power play goals against the Wild in the Sharks last home game, and the team now owns the best power play percentage in its own building at 30-percent.

Overall, the Sharks are sixth in the league (23.1 percent).

McLellan was asked on Saturday what has made his club so successful when it has a man advantage.

Were unpredictable, is probably the best way of putting it, he said. Right from entering the zone, we have different breakouts for different lines, and different sets. Were interchangeable parts, and that comes with experience.

One of the biggest qualities of the power play is puck retrieval; the ability to stay in and tire a team out. When were going well, we do that.

The Sharks may not have too many chances to improve those numbers tonight, though. The Coyotes enter the game with the fewest penalty minutes-per-game in the league with 8.5.

Coyotes still howling: After watching the shellacking the Sharks gave them on opening night, combined with the loss of star goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov in the offseason, it would have been easy to assume that the Coyotes would have a firm hold on last place in the Pacific Division by now.

As usual, though, the Coyotes are finding ways to hang around. Since that loss on Oct. 8, Phoenix has dropped just three games in regulation (7-4-3).

They dont have too many marquee players, so to speak, but they find ways to win, said Dan Boyle. The first game of the year was probably one of, if not our best game all year. I expect them to be much better than they were the first time around.

They had an awful opening night, and a good coaching staff, good team and good leadership, they know that, said McLellan. Theyve moved on and played well ever since.

One reason for that is goaltender Mike Smith. Smith got the call in that first game against the Sharks and surrendered six goals in just two periods to take the loss. In his 10 starts since, Smith is 6-1-3 and has allowed two goals or less in seven of them.

First things first: The Sharks have scored the first goal of the game just five times this season, and are a perfect 5-0 when doing so. That includes Thursday night against Minnesota.

The Coyotes have done it nine times, and have yet to lose a regulation game when jumping out to a 1-0 lead (6-0-3).

You dont usually score six goals against Phoenix, they are usually one-goal games, said Ryane Clowe. A lot of times its the first to three goals against Phoenix. Theyre coming in after losing a bad one, so theyre going to be ready to go.
Odds and ends: The Sharks have won six straight home games against the Coyotes. The Sharks are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, the best mark in the NHL. This is the first game of a season long five-game road trip for the Coyotes. Phoenix is 7-0-0 when leading after two periods, and 0-4-1 when trailing after two. Coyotes defenseman Michal Roszival has not played since getting struck by a puck in the first game of the season against the Sharks.