The Sharks already had a tough task at hand with the Coyotes coming into town on Tuesday night.
Sure, San Jose is coming off of a slump-busting win over the Canucks and did come from behind to beat Arizona 4-2 back on Nov. 30.
But the division-leading Desert Dogs added a weapon to their arsenal on Monday when they acquired Taylor Hall from the New Jersey Devils. The Sharks might still be able to pull off a win on Tuesday night, but the Coyotes just became a much bigger threat to their chances of picking up ground in the standings.
Approaching the midway point of the regular season, the Coyotes have maintained a competitive edge in the Pacific. Despite not being a huge goal-scoring threat and having middle-of-the-pack -- no pun intended -- special teams, they've been successful by keeping the opposition off the scoreboard. Their 82 goals allowed so far are tied with the Boston Bruins for third-fewest in the entire league.
Add Hall, who has registered 26 points and been a plus-9 in 30 career games against the Sharks, and San Jose's job of defeating Arizona just got harder.
Playing tighter defensively will be key for San Jose on Tuesday. While there's no confirmation yet as to where Hall will pencil into the lineup, it has been hypothesized that the left-handed winger will start on Arizona's top line alongside Christian Dvorak and Phil Kessel. Dvorak has been a key to Arizona's success so far this season, while Kessel has started contributing more as of late, especially on the power play. Keeping that line off the scoreboard won't solely be the responsibility of San Jose's top defensive pair -- likely Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Erik Karlsson -- but also of whichever forwards match up against it.
The Sharks are trying to climb out of the hole they dug for themselves immediately following their last encounter with the Coyotes. After making monumental progress in November, San Jose quickly lost ground in the standings thanks to a six-game losing skid. Now, after getting their first win under interim head coach Bob Boughner, the Sharks are looking to generate some momentum to get back above .500 and into the playoff picture. Getting another win over another division rival would be a strong step in the right direction.
Tuesday's game against the 'yotes will, no doubt, be a measuring stick for how much work they still have to do.