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Game Preview/Lines #32: Couture on Faceoff Improvement, Boughner on Knyzhov’s Penalty Problem

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Credit: Sheng Peng

San Jose Sharks (13-14-4)

Arizona Coyotes (14-14-5)

This was Arizona’s line-up in their last game, a 5-4 shootout victory over Colorado:

Tyler Pitlick is out though: He has a week-to-week lower-body injury.

Where to Watch

Puck drop is 7 PM PT at Gila River Arena. Watch it on Fox Sports Arizona and NBC Sports Bay Area or NHL.tv.

Morning Skate

It’s a sigh of relief for the San Jose Sharks.

Bad news, Logan Couture is a game-time decision tonight – good news, it could’ve been much worse:

Couture Leaves Game After Butt-End High Stick

“It kind of caught me butt-end on my jaw,” Couture said of Jeff Carter’s high stick. “My neck and back just locked up on me. It was kind of scary at first. I couldn’t really move my neck at first. But took a few seconds and I was able to move. So all good.”

For his part, Bob Boughner did not think the Carter butt-end was intentional: “He’s been around for a while, and he’s not known to be a dirty player by any means. It was more of the stick getting up in that situation. I don’t think it was a message being sent or anything like that.”

Back to Couture, but shifting gears, yesterday at San Jose Hockey Now, we observed that his 50.4 Faceoff Winning % was a big improvement from 2014-20’s 45.2.

“I spoke with the staff and Doug over the summer. That was something that we pinpointed that I needed to improve in my game. I’ve definitely put some work into it in the summer [and I] prepare each game with faceoffs near the top of my list of things that I want to do well,” Couture acknowledged. “The last few years, the numbers haven’t been good. I’ve dealt with a few different injuries where I wasn’t taking faceoffs for a while. But right now, I feel healthy in that aspect.”

Striking Stats: Where Burns & Karlsson Are Lagging, Couture’s Comeback Season | SJHN+

Speaking of yesterday’s Striking Stats, we also noted that Nikolai Knyzhov at -13 has the worst Net Penalty Differential in the NHL.

“Yeah, he’s got such good feet. And we really stress that we want our D to have great gap. We want what we call a squeeze at our blueline. Three-on-two or four-on-two, our mentality doesn’t change to deny entries. He’s done a really good job of that with his feet,” the San Jose Sharks head coach said of the rookie rearguard.

“Sometimes, when you’re in those situations as young guys, they don’t realize the gap has to start at the offensive blueline. You got to gauge your gap so that when you get inside your red [center] line, or right at [your] blue line, that’s when you’re in a squeeze situation. Sometimes, he gets caught playing on his toes a little too much.

“Because of that, there’s been a few penalties of late. But I don’t want to peel that back, take away his aggressiveness. I still want him fighting for that gap in the squeezes.”

Speaking of a sigh of relief:

Finally:

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