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Former Wings' assistant recovers from head injury

by Bill Roose / Detroit Red Wings

Coach Mike Babcock and his former assistant Todd McLellan worked together in Detroit for three seasons. (Photo by Dave Sandford)
Sports can be a cruel business – and a dangerous one – as San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan learned last weekend.

The former Red Wings’ assistant continues to deal with concussion-like symptoms after he was accidentally struck in the head with a stick during Sunday’s game in Minnesota.

To make matters worse, the Sharks lost to the Wild, finishing a dismal nine-game road trip with a 2-6-1 record. Then the team’s charter plane experienced mechanical problems leaving the Sharks in Minnesota for an additional day.

“Well, I haven’t been hit in the head with a stick on the bench – except for a few stitches to the face in practice,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said this week. “But the time we went off the runway in St. Louis was probably the worst time as flights go, but I really haven’t had an experience like that.”

McLellan was hurt on a freak play in the second period of Sunday's 4-3 loss. He was accidentally clubbed by the stick of Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, who had been checked into the Sharks' bench by Jamie McGinn.

In the moments after McLellan went down, no one seemed to know what occurred. A frightening scene ensued as a stretcher was wheeled across the ice to the Sharks’ bench.

McLellan is the latest NHL coach to suffer an upper-body injury, joining Edmonton’s Tom Renney and Buffalo’s Lindy Ruff on the injury list.

Renney was concussed earlier this month when he was struck in the head by a puck during a practice. He missed eight games before coaching last Saturday against Phoenix. Ruff broke ribs when he was sent flying by defenseman Jordan Leopold during a practice.

The Sharks had led the Western Conference in points, earning McLellan a coaching assignment in last month's All-Star game in Ottawa. But now the Sharks are clinging to their playoff lives as Phoenix, Colorado and Dallas are all giving them a serious run.

Still experiencing headaches, McLellan missed Tuesday’s home game against Philadelphia.

“Todd continues to make progress in his recovery from the stick incident in Minnesota on Sunday evening but is still experiencing concussion-like symptoms,” Sharks GM Doug Wilson said in a statement posted on the team’s website. “Thus, he will not be behind the bench until cleared by doctors to resume his coaching duties.”

Assistant coaches Matt Shaw and Jay Woodcroft lead the team in McLellan’s absence Tuesday.

“Our main concern at this point is for Todd’s full and complete recovery,” concluded Wilson in his statement.

In Nov. 2007, the Wings were forced to spend an additional night in St. Louis after the right rear wheels of their plane inadvertently crossed into a soggy grass area next to the tarmac and sank in mud. McLellan was on that flight, too.

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