(SportsNetwork.com) - The San Jose Sharks hope to further their slim playoff hopes with a fourth victory in five games when they host the Arizona Coyotes on Friday in the opener of a home-and-home series.
The Sharks have earned a point in four straight games (3-0-1) but San Jose is going to need to keep the surge going to even stand a chance of making the playoffs for an 11th straight spring.
San Jose enters Friday sitting five points behind Los Angeles and Winnipeg for the last playoff spot in the West and six in back of Calgary for the final automatic bid from the Pacific Division.
The Sharks have five games left and will begin this season-ending stretch with two straight against the Coyotes, who are last in the conference and ahead of only Buffalo in the overall NHL standings. Arizona will host the finale of this home-and-home on Saturday.
San Jose has won four of the last five meetings against the Coyotes and has earned at least a point in six straight (4-0-2). Arizona has claimed the past two encounters at the Shark Tank, winning both in shootouts.
The Sharks downed the visiting Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday, posting a 5-1 win after carrying only a 1-0 lead into the third period. San Jose's four-goal third period included a pair of empty-net markers.
Logan Couture had a goal and an assist, while Patrick Marleau, John Scott, Scott Hannan and Chris Tierney also scored for the Shark. Alex Stalock made 19 saves to record the victory.
"He made some really solid saves," San Jose head coach Todd McLellan said of Stalock. "The group around him played well."
Both Stalock and Antti Niemi have been bothered by illness lately, but the former netminder had started the last three games because he was the healthier of the two. However, head coach Todd McLellan revealed Stalock's cold has worsened over the last few days and Niemi is expected to get the start tonight.
Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic missed a second straight game with a lower-body injury and will sit out both tests of this series with Arizona.
San Jose is playing its penultimate home game of the season and will cap its regular-season slate at SAP Center when Dallas stops by this Monday.
The Coyotes last played on Monday when they lost a 4-1 decision against visiting Buffalo. The Sabres followed the win with Wednesday's victory over Toronto and is now only two points behind Arizona. The club with the worst record, of course, has the best odds of winning the NHL draft lottery and grabbing the No. 1 overall pick.
Connor Murphy had the only goal of the game for the Coyotes, who have lost two straight and 10 of 12. Mike Smith turned aside 32-of-34 shots in the setback.
"We left Smith out to dry a few times there," said Murphy. "We got the result for how we played. We weren't winning battles and getting to the puck first, at all."
After hosting the Sharks tomorrow, Arizona will head to Calgary and Vancouver before finishing the season at home against Anaheim on April 11.