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McLellan, Julien tabbed for All-Star coaching duties

by Shawn P. Roarke
Rookie coach Todd McLellan has made quite the first-year impression with the San Jose Sharks, the Western Conference's best team throughout the first half of the season.

McLellan added to his legend Friday night when the Sharks defeated Edmonton, 4-1, and catapulted McLellan into the head coach's job for this month's NHL All-Star Game in Montreal. He needed those two points to hold off the charge of Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who was McLellan's mentor for the past three years in Detroit before McLellan took over for Ron Wilson this summer. Babcock will be the assistant coach for the Western Conference.

Three of the four coaches were officially announced after Friday's slate of NHL games. It's McLellan and Babcock in the Western Conference and Boston's Claude Julien as the head coach for the Eastern Conference. He'll be assisted by Montreal's Guy Carbonneau.

Carbonneau earned the assistant's spot on Saturday night when his Canadiens rallied for a 5-4 victory over Boudreau's Capitals. The Canadiens needed a regulation win to get their coach named to the All-Star bench, and got it when Sergei Kostitsyn scored the game-winnnig goal with 21.2 seconds remaining in regulation.

The coaches for the NHL All-Star Game are determined by best winning percentage at the conclusion of Saturday night's games, the midway point of the season.  The game itself will take place at Montreal's Bell Center on Jan. 25 (6 p.m. ET, Versus, CBC, RDS, NHL Radio), as part of the All-Star Weekend festivities, which begin Jan. 22.

While Boudreau and Carbonneau took their race down to the last possible day, McLellan was pleased to know that he will have the head coaching job for the Western Conference, a team that will feature two Sharks -- center Joe Thornton and defenseman Dan Boyle

"It's a nice reward, but anything that comes to the coach is representative of the organization from ownership, to management to the players and the trainers," McLellan said. "It's an honor, but I'm not naive enough to think others (on my staff) weren't involved."

McLellan has coached the Sharks to a 30-5-5 record, tops in the Western Conference. He is only the second first-year NHL coach in League history to coach an All-Star team. The first was Florida's Doug MacLean, who coached the Eastern Conference in the 1996 game at Boston.

He will be joined on the Western Conference bench by Babcock, the man McLellan served under -- and won a Stanley Cup with last spring -- during a three-year tenure as an assistant with the Red Wings. Now, for at least one day, McLellan will be giving orders to his former boss.

"I'm looking forward to it," McLellan said. "It will be a really good experience and I'm looking forward to sitting with Mike and talking family and hockey."

Babcock won the Stanley Cup last season and reached the Final in 2003 with Anaheim, only to lose in seven games to New Jersey. In his three years with the Red Wings,  Detroit has won the Presidents' Trophy, as the League's best team, twice. This season, Detroit holds a 10-point lead on Chicago in the Central Division and entered Saturday just four points adrift of San Jose in the Western Conference race. Detroit is sending defensemen Nicklas Lidstrom and forward Pavel Datsyuk to the All-Star Game.

McLellan will be matching wits against Claude Julien of the Bruins, the team that has been pressuring San Jose for the League's best record for much of the past month. The Bruins got their 31st win by beating Carolina 5-1 on Saturday and hold a nine-point lead on Boudreau's Capitals for the Eastern Conference crown. They hold a 10-point cushion on Montreal for the Northeast Divsion crown.

Julien will have three of his own players at his disposal. Defenseman Zdeno Chara, goalie Tim Thomas and forward Marc Savard were named to the Eastern Conference lineup as reserves.

"It's a nice reward, but anything that comes to the coach is representative of the organization from ownership, to management to the players and the trainers. It's an honor, but I'm not naive enough to think others (on my staff) weren't involved." -- Sharks coach Todd McLellan

Carbonneau will see a lot of familiar faces on the Eastern Conference bench. Not only is he the coach of the All-Star Game's host team, but the Canadiens also had four players voted into the starting lineup -- goalie Carey Price, defensemen Mike Komisarek and Andrei Markov and forward Alex Kovalev.

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