Now that all of the All Star festivities are out of the way, it's time for the Phoenix Coyotes to concentrate on what's really important: their stretch run.
Phoenix heads into Tuesday's tilt with the San Jose Sharks sitting in sixth in the Western Conference, but just one point back of the fourth place Nashville Predators. San Jose just recently found themselves back in contention, heading into the break at eighth in the West.
Despite the fact that the Coyotes are winless in their last six against San Jose (0-3-3), road trips seem to favor the Yotes of late. They've won their last five on the road and are 15-8-4 away from Jobing.com Arena.
Keith Yandle brings his nine-game point streak to Tuesday's game, the longest active streak in the NHL. The NHL's leader in points by a defenseman, with 44, also has three consecutive multi-point games, with two points in each of Phoenix's trio of games before the break.
Ilya Bryzgalov will be looking to stop his own skid against the Sharks, having lost his last four to the Coyotes' Pacific Division rivals. That four-game winless streak comes despite a 2.13 GAA against the Sharks in those starts. On the season, Bryz has posted a 2.64 GAA and .916 save percentage, but has struggled recently, giving up 10 goals in his three starts prior to the break, posting a 1-2 record in those starts.
As the Sharks begin to turn their season around, Antti Niemi has been right in the middle of it. The former Chicago Blackhawk hasn't lost in regulation in his last five, going 4-0-1, while allowing more than two goals in one of those starts. Quite a contrast from earlier this season, when Niemi was giving up five or six goals on a somewhat regular basis.
The Coyotes will play just this one on the road, before returning to the desert for a trio of key Western Conference tilts. With three of the next four teams they face nipping at their heals, and the other (Vancouver) enjoying life at the top, the next stretch of games becomes crucial for the Phoenix Coyotes.