After reaching the Western Conference finals last season, the Phoenix Coyotes are on the verge of missing the playoffs.
Five points out of the final playoff spot with three games remaining, the fading Coyotes look to avoid a third consecutive loss to the postseason-bound San Jose Sharks at home Wednesday night.
While San Jose (25-14-7) has secured its ninth consecutive playoff appearance, Phoenix (19-18-8) is on the brink of elimination after recording three straight trips to the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"Disappointing, obviously, is the biggest word you can use," goaltender Mike Smith told the Coyotes' official website. "After getting to the conference finals last year and sitting where we are this year is obviously a tough pill to swallow right now."
The Coyotes have four points in the last five games but only one victory. Smith allowed three goals on 22 shots while Phoenix was shut out for the second time in four contests Monday, 4-0 at Detroit - one of the team's ahead of the Coyotes in the West.
"Just got to find a way to win the next one and give ourselves a chance,' said captain Shane Doan, who has been held without a point in seven straight games.
If the Coyotes are to have a chance over the next three games they'll likely need to improve a power play that is 3 for 36 (8.3 percent) this month.
Phoenix is 2 for 13 with the man advantage while going 1-2-1 against the Sharks in 2013. The Coyotes, who have been outscored 12-6 versus San Jose this season, lost 4-0 at home to the Sharks on April 15.
Logan Couture has scored two of his team-high 20 goals against the Coyotes.
He scored the winner 30 seconds after Joe Pavelski tied it Tuesday as the Sharks clinched a postseason berth with a 3-2 home win over Dallas.
With two games remaining, San Jose is fifth in the West, but has the same 57 points as fourth-place Los Angeles. The Sharks, who have won 12 of 16, visit the reigning Stanley Cup champion Kings to end the regular season Saturday.
"There's a sense of relief, but it can't be a sense of relaxation,' San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "When we came in we immediately looked at what happened tonight around the league, and there's still a chance for home ice. It would be a nice thing to have.'
San Jose opened the season with seven straight wins then lost 17 of 23 before its current surge.
"It's been a weird year,' said Couture, who has three goals and three assists in three games. "Our main goal from day one was to get into the playoffs. We've done that now so I guess that's all that matters going forward.'
Pavelski has a goal in three straight games and four in the last five. He has two and four assists versus Phoenix this season.
San Jose's Antti Niemi, who made 24 saves Tuesday, is 14-7-2 with a 2.38 goals-against average while starting 24 straight games. He's 3-0-1 with a 1.20 GAA and two shutouts against the Coyotes in 2013.
Smith made 33 saves in a 1-0 shootout victory Feb. 9, in his only appearance versus San Jose this year.
The Associated Press News Service
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