Sharks look to continue dominance over Phoenix


Sharks look to continue dominance over Phoenix

April 8, 2011

SHARKS (47-24-9) vs.
PHOENIX (42-25-13)

Coverage begins at 6:30 P.M. on Comcast SportsNet California

GLENDALE (AP) -- The Phoenix Coyotes need just one point to clinch a second consecutive playoff berth for the first time in 11 years.

The result could be a first-round matchup with the San Jose Sharks, whom they've had little success against recently.

San Jose seeks its ninth straight win over the host Coyotes on Friday night as the teams begin a home-and-home series to close the regular season.

The Coyotes (42-25-13) are tied for fifth place in the Western Conference with Nashville, two points ahead of Anaheim and Chicago. One more point - or a Dallas loss - would ensure that Phoenix makes a second straight playoff appearance for the first time since qualifying five consecutive times from 1996 through 2000.

The Coyotes have been involved in three straight shootouts - losing the last two - but they inched closer to the postseason with Wednesday's 3-2 loss at Los Angeles.

"It's a big point. But when you come all the way out here, you want to find a way to get both of them," captain Shane Doan said. "We've been close, we've been around it, but we just haven't found ways to win games."

Phoenix, the NHL's only team without a 20-goal scorer, returned three players from injury Wednesday.

Taylor Pyatt had a goal and an assist after missing one game with a lower-body injury, while Lauri Korpikoski and Ed Jovanovski also returned to the lineup. Jovanovski had not played since fracturing his left orbital bone Feb. 17.

"This is when it's fun - when the games are really important and everything's on the line," said Lee Stempniak, who scored his 19th goal to tie Doan for the team lead. "That's when you want to be out there and playing your best. I think it's good to get into that mindset."

The Coyotes may need a top-notch performance to end their 0-5-3 skid against the Sharks, a potential first-round playoff opponent if Phoenix slips in the standings.

San Jose (47-24-9) has outscored Phoenix 17-7 in winning four meetings this season, scoring at least four goals in each one. Patrick Marleau has four goals and two assists in those games, while Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski have three goals and four assists each.

The Sharks struggled Wednesday in a 6-2 loss at Anaheim, but they remained one point ahead of Detroit for second place in the West. San Jose fell in regulation for the first time since March 14 and is still 26-5-4 since Jan. 15.

REWIND: Sharks suffer letdown to Ducks in Anaheim, 6-2

"I thought our guys gave themselves permission, after a long, really good stretch, to take the night off. We're all disappointed about that," coach Todd McLellan said. "I expect it to be a one-time event."

Antero Niittymaki made 28 saves in place of Antti Niemi, who had started the previous 34 games. Niemi is 3-0-0 with a 2.00 goals-against average against the Coyotes this season and 4-0-1 with a 1.97 GAA in his career.

The Sharks also may get a boost from the potential returns of Ryane Clowe and Scott Nichol. Clowe missed Wednesday's game after suffering a lower-body injury Monday in a win over the Kings, while Nichol has missed 20 straight games with an upper-body injury.

San Jose has won four straight in Phoenix, last losing there Dec. 12, 2009.

Without Green, Iguodala, fourth quarter turns into disaster for Warriors vs Rockets

Without Green, Iguodala, fourth quarter turns into disaster for Warriors vs Rockets

OAKLAND -- The defending champion Warriors started cracking in the hours before tipoff Tuesday night and broke apart when they usually come together.

The fourth quarter was a disaster area and it cost the Warriors, as the Houston Rockets wiped out a 13-point deficit and tagged them with a 122-121 loss before a stunned sellout crowd at Oracle Arena.

So ends, as it should, the spurious notion of a rubber-stamp championship for the Warriors. A strain here and a tweak there and they found themselves on the painful end of the score.

The Warriors learned prior to the game that forward Andre Iguodala, their valuable Sixth Man, would be out nursing a strained back. They were hit with another injury, this one to Draymond Green, who was highly effective, late in the third quarter.

“He was our best player tonight,” coach Steve Kerr said. “He was the guy who was bringing the energy and the life.”

Green’s numbers -- 9 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists -- barely hint at his value in this game. Green and Iguodala are the primary defensive communicators, and Green held it down fairly well -- until he, too, was gone.

“Our communication wasn’t very good and we didn’t stick to the game plan; we gave them too many wide-open threes,” said Klay Thompson, who scored 11 first-quarter points but only 5 over the final three.

“We did a good job in the half-court of keeping them in front,” said Kevin Durant, who also scolded himself for committing eight turnovers. “But in transition we got cross-matched so many times and we just didn’t communicate well enough.”

Games aren’t always lost in the fourth, despite the frequent narrative, but this one most assuredly was. With Green in the locker room accompanied by ice, the Warriors were outscored 34-20 in the fourth quarter.

After shooting 45.8 percent through three quarters, the Rockets took it to 56 percent in the fourth, closing the game on a 13-5 run over the final 4:01.

The Warriors don’t yet know when Green and Iguodala will return, whether it’s as soon as Friday at New Orleans or a matter of weeks. Until they do, Kerr will have to resort to patching things together.

Problem is, aside from the scoring of Nick Young (23 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including 6-of-7 from deep) and Jordan Bell (8 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 12 minutes), the bench did not distinguish itself.

That was particularly true on defense, which happen to be where Iguodala and Green make their greatest impact. The reserves accounted for 13 of the 25 fouls called on the Warriors.

“We’ve got to be better,” Durant said. “We’ve got to be better, and we’re looking forward to practice Wednesday.”

D'Antoni claps back at Draymond, Warriors after Rockets' 122-121 win

D'Antoni claps back at Draymond, Warriors after Rockets' 122-121 win

Draymond Green usually gets the last word.

Not this time.

"Somebody said we don't take it seriously on defense. Well obviously they don't take it seriously either," Rockets head coach Mike D'Antoni said after the Rockets knocked off the Warriors 122-121 on Tuesday night., according to Santa Rosa Press Democrat's Phil Barber.

The jab stems from Green's comments after practice on Monday.

"You should believe that. I'm turning over a new leaf. Number 1 -- they want it to be a shootout, which is fine. But we're gonna play some defense. We score pretty well, but we're a damn good defensive team, too. So we're gonna play some defense.

"I don't know how serious they take defense with that comment, but I know they added some good defensive players," Green told reporters Monday.

Green won't get his next shot at D'Antoni and the Rockets until January 4 in Houston.