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Sharks coach faces former team

by Adam Schwartz / NHL.com
After just 3 games Wednesday, the NHL is back in full swing Thursday with 24 of the League's 30 teams in action, including the Ottawa Senators visiting the Florida Panthers (7:30 p.m. ET, NHLN).

Another key matchup involves Western Conference leaders Detroit and San Jose. This game will mark Sharks coach Todd McLellan's first game against the Red Wings, the team he spent the previous 3 seasons with as an assistant coach.

Three 7 p.m. starts will see the Tampa Bay Lightning face the Northeast Division-leading Buffalo Sabres, the New York Rangers host the Atlanta Thrashers and the streaking Philadelphia Flyers play the New York Islanders.

WHAT FANS ARE SAYING

"I think the Wings had a bit of a let down in this game..."

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"Our team keeps taking too many stupid penalties..."

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"New and improved Sharks? Dampen our spirits? Pfffft...."

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Later, the Nashville Predators play the Edmonton Oilers; the Minnesota Wild play their second game in 2 nights, against the Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS); the St. Louis Blues play their sixth game of a 7-game homestand, against the Carolina Hurricanes; the Columbus Blue Jackets take on the Colorado Avalanche; and the Boston Bruins finish their 3-game Western Canada swing against the Calgary Flames.

Besides the Red Wings-Sharks match, other late games feature the Pittsburgh Penguins playing the middle game of their 3-game road trip against the Phoenix Coyotes and the Los Angeles Kings hosting the Vancouver Canucks.

Here's what to watch:

* Tampa Bay center Vincent Lecavalier, who is serving his second term as Lightning captain, played more than 20 minutes in 3 of his first 5 games this season and had totaled just 2 goals and 1 assist. In Lecavalier's last 3 games he hasn't played more than 19 minutes and he has 3 goals. 

* Henrik Lundqvist, who has been in goal for 7 of the Rangers' 9 wins this season, has a 1.99 goals-against average -- he's never finished a season with a GAA less than 2.23. Lundqvist, who has faced more than 30 shots just twice this season, has given up more than 3 goals just once this season.

* Islanders center Doug Weight, who missed a penalty shot with less than a second left that could have tied Saturday's eventual 4-3 loss to the Hurricanes, has 3 assists in his last 3 games. Weight, who had just 25 points in 67 games last season, has 5 assists and 7 points in his first 8 games this season.

* Panthers left wing David Booth, who was third among Florida players with 22 goals last season, hasn't scored since posting 3 goals in his first 2 games this season. Booth, whose plus-3 rating is tied for the team lead, has taken more than 3 shots on net just once since his second game of the season.

* Edmonton center Andrew Cogliano has played more than 16 minutes in just 2 of 8 games this season. Cogliano, who has recorded 3 of his 4 points away from Rexall Place this season, is averaging 2:26 of power-play ice time per game.

* Montreal center Saku Koivu, who is the club's only European captain in its 100-year history, leads the team with a 58.4 faceoff-winning percentage. Koivu, who has had at least 40 assists in his 5 previous seasons, has 6 assists in 8 games this season but just 2 assists in his last 5 games.

* The Blues, who haven't made the playoffs in the last 3 seasons, are 5-3-0 and second place in the Central Division. St. Louis, which yielded the most goals in the division last season with 237, has allowed the fewest goals in the division with 23.

* Colorado defenseman Brett Clark, who is averaging the second-most ice time among Avalanche defensemen with 20:37 per game, leads the team with 28 blocked shots, 10 more than any other Colorado player.

* Boston goalie Tim Thomas, who allowed at least 3 goals in 3 of his first 4 games this season, recorded back-to-back 1-0 shutouts in his last 2 games, against the Canucks and the Oilers. Thomas, who didn't become an NHL regular until he was 31, has been among the top 15 in shots-against the last 2 seasons despite playing just 66 and 57 games in that span.

* The Coyotes, who are last in the Pacific Division with 6 points, have a 2-1 home record. Phoenix, which will play the third game in a 4-game homestand Thursday night, has scored the fewest goals in the division, with just 15 in their first 7 games.

* Los Angeles center Anze Kopitar, who has 6 assists and 8 points in 8 career games against the Canucks, has 4 of his 6 assists this season in second periods. Kopitar averages the most ice time among Los Angeles forwards with 21:33 per game.

* San Jose defenseman Brad Lukowich, who had a career-worst minus-15 rating last season, has a plus-2 rating in 9 games this season and leads San Jose defensemen with 21 hits.
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