Slumping Sharks host rival Coyotes

The San Jose Sharks' fast start to the season is getting further and further away in the rearview mirror.

The Sharks try to avoid a fourth straight defeat on Saturday as they play host to the Phoenix Coyotes.

San Jose won each of its first seven games this season and averaged 4.1 goals per game over that span. The season-opening win streak ended with a 2-1 shootout loss to the Nashville Predators last Saturday before consecutive defeats to Anaheim and Chicago.

After getting held to just one goal versus the Ducks, the Sharks scored three times in the first period of Tuesday's meeting with the Blackhawks. However, Chicago matched the goal output in the first and scored in the second and third frames as well to hand San Jose a 5-3 loss.

Michal Handzus and Tommy Wingels each had a goal and an assist and Joe Pavelski added a goal in defeat. Antti Niemi allowed four goals on 30 shots.

San Jose defenseman Andrew Desjardins was hit with a 10 minute match penalty in the second period for a hit on Jamal Mayers and also got five minutes for fighting Chicago's Duncan Keith, who was handed two minors, a major and a game misconduct.

Desjardins was penalized for a supposed hit to the head, but the match penalty was rescinded by the NHL on Wednesday after it was deemed he did not make contact with Mayers' head. That means there will be no further discipline towards Desjardins, but that didn't help the Sharks any in Tuesday's loss.

"It was a terrible call," Sharks head coach Todd McLellan said after the game. "I don't know if we're going to come back or not but at that point we're still in the game and we should have been on a four-minute power play. That's a good hockey hit, but the linesman called it. No one else saw it."

The Coyotes had won the first two of a three-game homestand before suffering a 6-2 setback to the Blackhawks on Thursday. It was the first time that Phoenix's Raffi Torres faced Chicago since his illegal hit to Marian Hossa's head in last season's playoffs that led to a 21-game suspension.

Torres scored on Thursday and Martin Hanzal added a goal, but Mike Smith yielded six goals on 22 shots before getting pulled in the second period. Jason LaBarbera turned away all 11 shots faced in relief.

"It was a good slap in the face right here," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "We just went out there and we just got kicked. If we don't recognize that, then we've got bigger problems than I think we have got."

The Coyotes now play three straight and six of their next eight on the road.

Phoenix has lost 12 of its past 17 versus the Sharks, including a 5-3 setback in San Jose on Jan. 24. Patrick Marleau scored two of the Sharks' four third- period goals, while Joe Thornton had an empty-net tally and three assists.

LaBarbera, starting in place of an injured Smith, stopped 30 shots. Smith missed the game with a groin injury.

It was Phoenix's eighth loss in its last nine trips to San Jose.