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At the Rink: Oilers at Sharks

by Eric Gilmore

SAN JOSE -- Todd McLellan, dressed in street clothes, looked cool and calm following the Edmonton Oilers optional morning skate Thursday at SAP Center, hours away from facing the San Jose Sharks, his former team.

How will McLellan react when the puck drops Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; SNW, CSN-CA) in his first game in San Jose since parting ways with the Sharks after last season?

"I've been asked that question a couple times, are you going to be nervous?" McLellan said. "I'm not nervous because I'm back in San Jose. It's a comfortable spot for me. I liked it here. I'm always nervous about playing the game, what the opposition can or can't do and how we'll respond. So that's not going to change at all. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't different when you walk in the building and turn right instead of left, but we're into January already.

"We've fully entrenched ourselves, we've married ourselves to this group of players and we're excited about where we're going to go. We know we have a ton of work ahead of us. Some of it's been put in place already."

McLellan coached the Sharks for seven years and is the winningest coach in franchise history with a record of 311-163-66. He led the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Playoffs six times, reaching the Western Conference Finals twice, but missed the playoffs last season.

McLellan has already faced the Sharks (21-18-2) once this season, leading the Oilers to a 4-3 victory Dec. 9 at Rexall Place. Now he'll try to defeat the Sharks in San Jose.

Sharks forward Tommy Wingels said he expects McLellan to have "a whole lot of different thoughts and emotions" Thursday night.

"You go through your ups and downs over the years, but certainly it had become home for him," Wingels said. "You spend seven years in a place, when you raise your family in an area, when your wife and one of your sons still live in the area, I think it still holds a special place for him. I think he's probably pretty excited about coming here and returning to where he's had a lot of success and was a big part of where the organization's gotten to over the last few years, but at the same time maybe a little nervous."

Debbie McLellan and their youngest son, Cale, still live in the San Jose area. Cale is a sophomore in high school and an aspiring golfer. The McLellans wanted Cale to finish his high school career in San Jose. Their oldest son, Tyson, is a freshman hockey player at the University of Connecticut.

Todd McLellan is coaching a new team, but his ties to San Jose are still strong.

"I still have my wife and son here, so every day I call back and there are some San Jose conversations," McLellan said. "Still have a tremendous friend base here in San Jose. Our family loved it here. We became part of the community. You never lose [or] cut ties to it."

The Oilers (17-23-4) are winless in their past three games, but will get reinforcements Thursday. Forward Nail Yakupov returns to the lineup after missing the past 22 games with a sprained ankle.

"It's good to be back," Yakupov said. "I will do everything I can today."

Forward Zack Kassian, who was called up Wednesday from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League, will make his Oilers debut. He was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 28 in exchange for goaltender Ben Scrivens.

"I'm excited for the opportunity tonight," Kassian said. "For me, I'm just going to keep it simple, first game, and try to get two points. It's always nice when you debut if the team wins."

Here are the projected lineups:


Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Iiro Pakarinen

Benoit Pouliot - Leon Draisaitl - Jordan Eberle

Lauri Korpikoski - Mark Letestu - Teddy Purcell

Nail Yakupov - Anton Lander - Zack Kassian

Andrej Sekera - Brandon Davidson

Darnell Nurse - Justin Schultz

Mark Fayne - Eric Gryba

Cam Talbot

Anders Nilsson

Injured: Connor McDavid (collarbone), Oscar Klefbom (finger/lower body), Andrew Ference (undisclosed).

Scratched: Luke Gazdic, Brad Hunt


Tomas Hertl - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski

Matt Nieto - Patrick Marleau - Joel Ward

Joonas Donskoi - Logan Couture - Tommy Wingels

Melker Karlsson - Chris Tierney - Mike Brown

Marc-Edouard Vlasic - Justin Braun

Paul Martin - Brent Burns

Brenden Dillon - Dylan DeMelo

Martin Jones

Alex Stalock

Injured: Dainius Zubrus (upper body)

Scratched: Ben Smith, Matt Tennyson

Status report: The Oilers waived forward Rob Klinkhammer to open a roster spot for Yakupov. If Klinkhammer clears waivers, he'll be assigned to Bakersfield of the AHL. .. Hendricks serves the second game of his three-game suspension for boarding Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad on Sunday. ... The Sharks on Wednesday placed Zubrus on injured reserve and added forward Raffi Torres to their active roster. Torres, who served a 41-game suspension hitting the Anaheim Ducks' Jakob Silfverberg in the head during a preseason game on Oct. 3, was assigned to the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL.

Who's hot: Burns has an eight-game point streak (six goals, six assists). ... Pavelski and Thornton each have two goals and three assists in the past three games. ... Eberle has five assists and two goals in his past five games.

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