Just eight days after winning a Stanley Cup as an assistant coach with the Detroit Red Wings
last season, Todd McLellan
was named the head coach in San Jose on June 12.
It shouldn't come as much of a surprise as the respected McLellan played a vital role in transforming the Wings' power-play unit into one of the League's best. The club scored at a 20.7 percent clip with the man advantage in 2007-08 to finish third in the NHL. In his first season as an assistant under Mike Babcock, the Wings had the League's best power play with a 22.1 percent efficiency.
McLellan has picked up where he left off in terms of success this season. The Sharks (7-2-0) are currently tops in the Western Conference with 14 points, one ahead of the Red Wings (6-1-1). On Thursday, he'll welcome his former team to the HP Pavilion at San Jose, where the Sharks are 4-0-0.
McLellan is looking forward to the meeting.
"I have a ton of respect for Mike Babcock; he's a brilliant coach," McLellan said. "He works harder than anyone in the League and I spent a number of good years there. I'm proud to say I was part of that organization. I have fond memories and maybe we'll have some time to sit down and actually talk about those memories if given that opportunity.
"I think if I said I was more determined to win that game, I'd be letting my team down every other night," McLellan said. "It's a game; we've got to play it and our goal is to win. Basically, what it will come down to are the 40 players that dress that night - they're going to decide who wins and who loses."
Babcock is glad to see McLellan's success.
"Your first opportunity as an NHL head coach is real exciting," Babcock said. "There are only 30 of these jobs in the world and he's proven to be very capable. He's a great speaker, understands the game and was a huge help to myself and (Wings assistant coach) Paul MacLean
"I think (Sharks GM) Doug Wilson did a good job improving the back end, and they already had great forwards and good goaltending, so they're going to be a tough team," Babcock said. "The challenges are going to be like anything; you've got to establish a program and you've got to keep people accountable, but it's hard to win each night in the West."
Said McLellan, "Detroit gave me an opportunity and Mike (Babcock) was confident enough to approach me and offer me a chance to join his staff. They have a championship mentality; everything they do is about winning and it was a great position for me to be in as a young coach to experience that and be around Hall of Fame players. It prepared me for this opportunity (as head coach of the Sharks)."
Battle of New York
- If there was ever an NHL matchup that certainly riles up fans in New York, the Rangers and Islanders would be it.
The first meeting between the Atlantic Division rivals takes place Monday at Nassau Coliseum. The Isles got the best of the Rangers last season, winning 5 of the 8 meetings, despite the fact the Rangers finished fifth in the Eastern Conference, 18 points higher than the Isles. The Rangers (8-2-1) are currently atop the Eastern Conference with 17 points, while the Islanders (2-5-0) are last with four.
Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist
(6-2-1) sports a 1.99 goals-against average and .927 save percentage and Islanders starter Rick DiPietro
(0-2), who is trying to hold the fort while his injury-ridden defense gets healthier, owns a 3.91 GAA and .883 save percentage.
Offensively, Brandon Dubinsky
(4 goals) leads the Rangers with 11 points through 11 games. Aaron Voros
(5 goals) is right behind Dubinsky with 9 points. The Islanders have been led by Doug Weight
(2 goals) and defenseman Mark Streit
(2 goals) with 6 points apiece.
- After spending five seasons with the Los Angeles Kings
, forward Mike Cammalleri
makes his return to Staples Center Saturday as a member of the Calgary Flames
The speedy left wing, who totaled 79 goals the past three seasons in Los Angeles, collected just 19 last season when he was beset with injuries. The 26-year-old has yet to experience a Stanley Cup Playoff game - something he hopes will become a reality in Calgary.
"It was a tough year (in Los Angeles) on a lot of different levels," Cammalleri said. "I learned a lot from it though, and now I'm ready to move on."
The Flames acquired Cammalleri in a three-way deal last June, shipping forward Alex Tanguay
to the Montreal Canadiens
and sending their first-round pick (No. 17 overall) to the Kings. The Kings then sent the 17th and 28th overall picks to Anaheim for the Ducks' 12th overall selection. The Kings also had the second overall pick, which they used to select talented defenseman Drew Doughty
. Cammalleri's best season was 2006-07 when he had 31 goals and 46 assists in 81 games.
For much of the season, he's been playing with Jarome Iginla
and Craig Conroy
and has responded with 2 goals and 7 points through 8 games. Cammalleri has also spent over 5 minutes per game on the team's top power-play unit.
Carolina on my mind - Power forward Erik Cole
spent six seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes
and celebrated the team's first Stanley Cup in 2006. But on July 1, his tenure with the club ended when he was obtained by the Edmonton Oilers
in exchange for defenseman Joni Pitkanen
. Ironically, the Hurricanes defeated the Oilers in seven memorable games during Cole's Cup Final run.
On Saturday, he'll return to RBC Center in Carolina, where he posted 51 points and 22 goals last season. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound left wing, who has scored 20-or-more goals 3-straight seasons, has struggled out of the gate this year playing alongside Ales Hemsky
and Shawn Horcoff
in Edmonton (4-3-0).
Perhaps his luck will change against the Hurricanes (4-2-1). He has notched 2 points and is a minus-3 through 7 games. The last time Cole finished with a negative plus/minus rating was in 2003-04, the same season he also connected for fewer than 20 goals.
Blake back in Denver
-- Colorado Avalanche
fans will see a familiar face on the opposing bench Sunday when the San Jose Sharks
visit Pepsi Center.
Defenseman Rob Blake
, who spent 5 seasons in Colorado and helped the team to its second Stanley Cup in 2001, will make his return. The 38-year-old Blake, who left the Los Angeles Kings
as an unrestricted free agent during the off-season, was actually booed every time he touched the puck when the Sharks visited Staples Center in Los Angeles on Oct. 12.
The 6-time NHL All-Star is hoping for a more positive reaction from the fans in Denver. Blake, now in his 17th NHL season, posted 6 goals and 19 points in 23 postseason games with the Avalanche during the 2001 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I understand people are going to question my age," Blake told NHL.com. "But I feel no different than I ever did. You can still play if you have that desire, and I'm really excited now that I'm on a Stanley Cup-level team. At this stage in my career, it's just having that opportunity to win. I tried to do it differently the last couple of years, and it was very difficult to play. It's wasn't fun going to the rink. The one goal in San Jose is to win the Stanley Cup, so to get a fresh new start here is great. For me, winning another Cup is the driving force behind playing."
Air time - Don't forget, the NHL Hour With Commissioner Gary Bettman and co-host Bill Clement
airs every Thursday from 4-5 p.m. ET throughout the season on NHL Home Ice (XM Channel 204 and Sirius Channel 208).
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