Series (Game 1 of 6)

Arizona leads 4-2

Game 1: Saturday, October 8th
Game 2: Saturday, November 12th
Game 3: Saturday, February 4th
Game 4: Saturday, March 10th
Game 5: Saturday, March 24th
Game 6: Thursday, March 29th

Coyotes 3

(0-1-0, 0 pts)

Sharks 6

(1-0-0, 2 pts)

10:30 PM ET, October 8, 2011

SAP Center, San Jose, California

1 2 3 T
ARI 0 1 23
SJ 2 4 06

A. Desjardins (Sharks - C): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

J. Pavelski (Sharks - C): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

P. Marleau (Sharks - C): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

Coyotes-Sharks Preview


The San Jose Sharks have been anything but inconsistent over the past four seasons, winning the Pacific Division title each time before falling in the Western Conference playoffs.

General manager Doug Wilson is on a mission to prove the former means little without avoiding the latter.

With a retooled roster and high expectations, the Sharks begin their quest for the franchise's first berth in the Stanley Cup finals Saturday night when they host the Phoenix Coyotes.

San Jose (48-25-9) finished with the second-most points in the West last season, only to fall in the conference finals for the second straight time after losing in five games to Vancouver.

The Sharks have garnered the reputation of being regular-season powers and postseason failures, and Wilson has had enough.

He sent forwards Devin Setoguchi and Dany Heatley to Minnesota for All-Star defenseman Brent Burns and forward Martin Havlat in separate deals. Wilson then signed Michal Handzus and Andrew Murray to help improve last season's 24th-ranked power-play unit, and he added defensemen Colin White and James Vandermeer.

"It's a consistent message," Wilson said. "We tell our guys we have to get better. Sometimes, it's personnel changes. We're not satisfied even though we've had some pretty good success the past two years. We're pushing. We think we're one of the top teams in the league and we have to go out and perform that way."

Captain Joe Thornton, who has four goals and seven assists in an eight-game point streak against Phoenix, also has received some scrutiny for his underwhelming postseason performances throughout his career.

Though he set a playoff career high with 14 assists last season, he has a minus-19 rating over the last three postseasons.

Thornton's 70 regular-season points were his fewest since scoring 68 in 66 games with Boston in 2001-02.

"We're just not satisfied going to the Western Conference finals two years in a row," Thornton said. "Our standards have always been high ever since I've been here. We want to get to the Cup final and win the Stanley Cup for the Bay Area. We're focused and we're ready to go."

He'll get some help again from second-year star Logan Couture, who scored 32 goals as a rookie. Couture said the Sharks, who were in 12th place in the West after a six-game losing streak Jan. 3-13, need to get out to a better start this season.

"You don't just wake up and get to the playoffs. Everyone starts off fresh and everyone has zero points and it's a fight to get into the playoffs," Couture said. "That's something we didn't realize last year but for sure we realize that now and I think we'll get out of the gates strong."

They'll begin the season, though, without goaltender Antti Niemi for at least the first night. Niemi is recovering from minor surgery to remove a cyst in his knee, meaning backup Thomas Greiss will get the nod in net.

A change in goal is something with which Phoenix is familiar.

Ilya Bryzgalov's contract demands proved to be too much for the NHL-owned Coyotes (43-26-13), who shipped his negotiating rights to Philadelphia in the offseason.

Tampa Bay castoff Mike Smith is the new starter, and he'll split the duties with backup Jason LaBarbera after a second straight first-round playoff exit at the hands of Detroit.

"Obviously, our goaltending has to be good for us to do well this year, but (I'm) very confident with the depth in goaltending," general manager Don Maloney said.

Captain Shane Doan returns, along with All-Star defenseman Keith Yandle and Radim Vrbata. Phoenix also signed veteran Raffi Torres and traded Lee Stempniak to Calgary for Daymond Langkow, who played only four games last season due to a neck injury.

Langkow scored 68 goals and added 98 assists with the Coyotes from 2001-04.

"I think we've got a lot of depth, character, skill, a good mix of that," Langkow said. "As long as we stay healthy as a team, I think we'll be alright."

Phoenix has won five straight season openers, though that streak may be in jeopardy. The Sharks have won nine of the last 10 meetings, including five straight in San Jose.