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When the Sharks hired Todd McLellan for his first NHL head coaching job, they knew they were getting someone with Stanley Cup credentials who would put an emphasis on offense.

Some recent success on defense has been an added bonus, helping propel San Jose to its best start ever.

McLellan will face his former team for the first time on Thursday night when the Sharks welcome the defending Cup champion Detroit Red Wings.

The Sharks hired McLellan - an assistant under Red Wings coach Mike Babcock the previous three seasons - in June to replace the fired Ron Wilson, now with Toronto. In each of the last three seasons under Wilson, San Jose was ousted in the Western Conference semifinals, including a loss to Detroit in 2007.

Though higher-profile coaches were available, McLellan landed this job based on his success with the Red Wings in addition to the juniors and the AHL.

"He comes from one of the top organizations in all of sports and has been exposed to some of the brightest hockey minds in the game," Sharks general manager Doug Wilson said.

With a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Pacific Division-leading San Jose (8-2-0) is off to the best start in franchise history. Though he stresses offense, McLellan has had the Sharks focus more on defense since giving up 10 goals in a shootout win over Philadelphia and a loss to Florida last week.

The Sharks followed with a shutout of Tampa Bay, and coming within 5:33 of another whitewash on Tuesday.

"I am proud of the way our team played defensively," McLellan told the Sharks' official Web site. "We've had to look at ourselves in the mirror when it comes to our defense and it's nice to see how we've have responded."

Evgeni Nabokov is expected to start in goal for the Sharks, but is 0-3-0 with a 6.35 goals-against average in his last four home starts versus Detroit.

One player who's responded well to McLellan is Patrick Marleau, tied with Devin Setoguchi for the team lead with five goals. Marleau, the franchise's goal-scoring leader (243), had only 19 last season and didn't score his sixth until his 30th game.

In 39 career games against the Red Wings, Marleau has had four game-winning goals, his most against any opponent.

San Jose is 5-0-0 at home, and 6-0-0 overall when allowing two goals or less. In 2007-08, though, the Sharks dropped three of four to the Red Wings, allowing 15 goals in the defeats.

Detroit (7-1-2) played its third straight game past regulation on Wednesday, but lost for the first time. Chris Osgood allowed Francois Beauchemin's goal 1:39 into overtime of a 5-4 defeat decided after a brief video review.

"We were up and the game was in our hands. We just gave it away," the Red Wings' Marian Hossa said.

Central-leading Detroit defeated Chicago and Los Angeles in shootouts to start its five-game road swing.

Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg each scored twice, while Hossa and Dan Cleary had two assists apiece versus the Ducks. Still, the Red Wings had their five-game winning streak snapped, and lost for first time in six road games this season.

Zetterberg has seven goals and three assists, all coming in his current seven-game points streak. Hossa, the Wings' scoring leader with 14 points, has five goals and eight assists during an eight-game run.

Both will be looking to extend personal runs against San Jose. Zetterberg has five goals and six assists in his last six games versus the Sharks, including four consecutive multi-point contests.

Hossa has tallied five goals in his last three visits to HP Pavilion while playing for Ottawa and Atlanta.

EA SPORTS NHL09 Game Predictions
Detroit 1
San Jose 3
Three Stars
G: 1 | A: 1

g: 1 | a: 0

G: 1 | A: 0


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