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36-30-15

Sharks-Coyotes Preview

AP - Sports

The Phoenix Coyotes can only blame themselves for failing to reach the playoffs for a second straight season.

One night after being eliminated from postseason contention, the Coyotes look to avoid a seventh consecutive defeat as they host the playoff-bound San Jose Sharks.

Phoenix's playoff hopes ended Friday night when Dallas won 3-0 over St. Louis to clinch the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Coyotes (36-29-15), who host Dallas in Sunday's regular-season finale, are four points behind the Stars and can tie them, but would lose the tiebreaker by having six fewer regulation and overtime victories.

The Coyotes instead will try to muster enough pride to end an 0-3-3 slide during which they've totaled seven goals and been shut out twice.

"It's not where we want to be," Phoenix defenseman Michael Stone said. "That's all there is to it really. We didn't do enough to continue to be able to control our own fate."

Phoenix recorded 15 of its 29 shots in the third period Thursday, but was stymied by Pekka Rinne in a 2-0 loss at Nashville.

"If we have some more guys chip in on the offensive side it would certainly help our case," said coach Dave Tippett, whose team is 1 for 10 on the power-play in the last five contests.

Antoine Vermette has a team-leading 24 goals but none in seven games. Radim Vrbata has been held without one in his last 10 contests and recorded only one of his 20 goals in the last 14 games.

Vermette and Vrbata each have been held to one goal in three games versus San Jose (50-22-9) this season.

Ex-Shark Thomas Greiss has a respectable 2.43 goals-against average during the six-game skid. He could be in net against his former team for the first time since signing with Phoenix during the offseason to backup Mike Smith, who has not played since March 24 because of a leg injury.

San Jose managed four goals while losing two of its previous three games before Martin Havlat recorded a hat trick in Friday's 5-1 win over Colorado. It was the fourth win in 10 games for the Sharks, who hope to build some momentum heading into their first-round playoff series with Los Angeles.

It remains to be seen how much of a factor Havlat will be after he scored three third-period goals two nights after being scratched in a 5-2 loss at Anaheim. The veteran winger, who turns 33 next week, has 12 goals and 10 assists in 47 games.

"He's one of those guys that has had a challenging season," Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said. ''He's here to score goals, and we're going to need him in the playoffs to do that. Hopefully something like this can propel him to bigger and better things."

The Sharks likely will need some consistent postseason contributions from rookie forward Tomas Hertl, who played Friday for the first time since injuring his knee Dec. 19. He had 15 goals and 10 assists in 35 games at the time of the injury, including two during a 4-1 home win over the Coyotes on Oct. 5.

San Jose has won two of three from the Coyotes this season, including a 4-3 shootout at Phoenix on Dec. 27.

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