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Coyotes look to continue turnaround vs. Sharks

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Coyotes finally have a homestand -- and some momentum, too.

The team with the NHL's worst record will now learn if it is capable of winning at home after figuring out -- even if it took a quarter of the season to do so -- how to win on the road.

The Coyotes (5-15-3), riding a three-game winning streak for the first time all season, host the San Jose Sharks (10-8-1) on Wednesday night at Gila River Arena, where Arizona is only 1-6-1. It is the first of three games in four nights on home ice for the Coyotes, who've played nearly twice as many road games (15) as they have home games (eight).

After playing 12 of their last 15 on the road during a run that included three East Coast road trips, the Coyotes are home for their next three.

The question is whether that is a good thing for a team that has drawn smallish crowds at home all season and, after winning in succession at Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, finally seems to be deciphering what it takes to win on the road.

They might be catching the Sharks at a good time, however. After winning six of seven, San Jose has dropped three in a row, including a 3-2 loss to Anaheim on Monday night that required a nine-round shootout to settle.

"We're trying to wash the first 20 games of the season down the drain and turn the page," said Arizona rookie left wing Clayton Keller, who had two assists in a 4-1 win at Toronto on Monday night. "We had a good practice in Montreal (on Nov. 15) and that kind of fired us up and we've been carrying that tide since that practice. Everybody's battling and we're a real happy group right now."

Even if coach Rick Tocchet isn't too happy with the schedule to date, and all the traveling that's accompanied it.

"What I'm proud of is the schedule's not great, but they (the players) haven't complained one time," Tocchet said. "It's only the coaches who are complaining. And it's been a brutal schedule."

One that won't get appreciably better in the near future, either. Following this quick run of three home games, the Coyotes go back on the road for seven of eight games.

"The last seven, eight or nine games, we've been playing the right way for longer stretches," said Tocchet, whose team lost its first 11 games. "Guys are staying in the moment and not going off the grid. If we stay in the moment and play the right way, we can play with a lot of teams."

The Sharks, meanwhile, lost Monday despite a pair of goals from right wing Joonas Donskoi, who has seven goals in 19 games after scoring only six last season.

"It's great to have him back," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We missed him last year. That's the guy who saw two years ago."

The guy the Sharks are missing this season is defenseman Brent Burns, who is without a goal in 82 shots and has only seven points in 19 games after scoring 29 goals last season. He had at least 75 points in each of the last two seasons.

The Sharks are embarking on a busy week, staying in the desert to play at Vegas on Friday afternoon before returning home to play streaking Winnipeg on Saturday night.

"These are big points when you play each other (in the Western Conference)," right wing Joe Pavelski said. "And right now, we're on the outside looking in (in the conference). Points are big no matter who you're playing."

Second-line center Logan Couture leads the Sharks with 10 goals and 16 points, while linemate and right wing Tomas Hertl has three goals and 11 points. Donskoi is the left wing on what currently is the Sharks' most productive line.

Goaltender Martin Jones (8-5-1) is playing at his usual high level with a 2.11 goals-against average and .926 save percentage. Coyotes goaltender Antti Raanta (4-5-2) is starting to build respectable numbers despite being slowed by two early season lower body injuries. He has won three straight while trimming his goals-against average to 2.91 and upping his save percentage to .912.

Keller leads the Coyotes -- and all NHL rookies -- with 11 goals and 20 points, and defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson now has 11 assists to go with his three goals.

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