Sharks

Kings hire Todd McLellan, turn to an ex-Sharks head coach for second time

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Kings hire Todd McLellan, turn to an ex-Sharks head coach for second time

Stop us if you've heard this before: the Los Angeles Kings, led by a general manager who has Sharks ties, hired a former San Jose head coach to the same position. 

The Kings announced Tuesday they hired ex-Sharks head coach Todd McLellan to replace interim head coach Willie Desjardins, who took over for John Stevens, who was fired by the Kings in November. McLellan's contract with Los Angeles reportedly is worth up to $25 million over five years, sources told The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun. 

McLellan coached the Sharks from 2008-2015, leading San Jose to six playoff appearances in seven years. He compiled a 311-163-66 record in the regular season, and the Sharks made two appearances in the Western Conference Final in 2010 and 2011 McLellan was Rob Blake's coach in the first of those berths, and Blake -- the Kings' general manger -- is now McLellan's boss. 

After parting ways with San Jose, McLellan coached the Edmonton Oilers for parts of four seasons. He was fired in November after going 123-119-24 behind the Edmonton bench in the regular season. McLellan led the Oilers to one playoff appearance in 2016-17. 

The 51-year-old was behind the Sharks' bench in Stanley Cup playoff losses to the Kings in 2013 and 2014. In the latter instance, San Jose blew a 3-0 series lead in the first round to Los Angeles and the Kings went on to win the Stanley Cup. Those Kings, of course, also had Sharks ties behind the bench and in the front office. 

[RELATED: Pavelski's NASCAR-driving ex-teammate rooting for Sharks]

Dean Lombardi -- San Jose's general manager from 1996-2003 -- and Darryl Sutter -- San Jose's head coach from 1997-2002 -- served in the same positions in Los Angeles. Both are long gone from the Kings' front office, but the Sharks' rivals are hoping a similar approach aids their push back into relevance. 

But these Kings aren't on the precipice of contention as they were during the Sutter-Lombardi reunion. LA has missed the playoffs in three of the last five seasons, and finished with the NHL's second-worst record (31-42-9) in 2018-19.

The Kings have a long road back to the league's elite, and they're banking on a pair of ex-Sharks to lead them there.

What Sharks like about way they are playing despite loss to Sabres

What Sharks like about way they are playing despite loss to Sabres

SAN JOSE - Saturday night's Sharks-Sabres matchup ended up being an entertaining one for sure, with a lot of the action taking place in the final 20 minutes of the game.

And even though San Jose lost 4-3 and had their three-game winning-streak snapped, they still believe that their overall game is headed in the right direction. 

"When I look at seven or eight games that we've played, that's probably one of the better 60-minute efforts we've got," Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said afterward. "I think we're getting better. I can tell you, I like where our game's at now a lot better than I did two weeks ago."

Captain Logan Couture agreed, although he wanted to see a different result in Saturday's contest.

"I thought we played well, we could've done some things better," Couture said, giving the opposition the credit they deserve. "They're a very good team. It's no fluke over there that they have their record. They're playing very good hockey. We had an opportunity to beat them, just one more mistake on our end tonight."

One of the biggest problems San Jose ran into was penalty trouble in the second period. Sure, the penalty kill remains dominant and was able to keep Buffalo's potent power play from finding the back of the net. In fact, San Jose's special teams overall played a huge factor in them keeping the game close. But as Couture explained, being down a skater for too long can have a negative effect on a team's even-strength game -- even one with as good of a PK as San Jose has right now.

"It's tough to get in a rhythm," Couture explained. "There were so many penalties. For our line, especially, I think we only had two even-strength shifts in the second."

But the Sharks are happy with how they pushed back late in the game to keep things close. After the Sabres jumped out to a 2-1 lead at the end of the second period, the Sharks began creating more chances in their own end to keep the visitors from running away with the game. They traded tallies with Buffalo thanks to two big goals from Tomas Hertl and Marcus Sorensen. Even after Zemgus Girgensons buried the Sabres' fourth goal on the evening, San Jose continued to press and get looks in front of the net as the final few minutes of play expired.

"I liked our resiliency," DeBoer said. "I thought we battled all night."

[RELATED: Marleau reflects on Sharks return]

The Sharks will get another crack at the Sabres this upcoming Tuesday as they kick off an East Coast swing in Buffalo. San Jose might not be very happy with the mistakes they made on Saturday night, but they can at least see that their overall game his trending in the right direction.

"We still had a couple of bad mistakes, but we have to learn from it and be better," Hertl said. "It's kind of a tough loss but we have to bounce back. We (play) against them in the next game so we have to be ready for them."

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-snapping 4-3 loss to Sabres

Sharks takeaways: What we learned in streak-snapping 4-3 loss to Sabres

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE - The Sharks' first standoff of the season against the Sabres was a fast-paced and tight-checking fete that saved most of its drama for the last 20 minutes of play.

But even with a couple of third-period goals to keep things interesting, Team Teal couldn't quite pull this one off against the visiting Buffalo squad and dropped the final game of their homestand 4-3.

Here are three takeaways from Saturday's game:

Going to the net

The Sharks might have been better on the defensive side of their game, particularly in their own end. But they struggled throughout Saturday's contest with getting in front of Buffalo's net and generating good shots. In fact, San Jose only tallied one shot on goal through nearly 13 minutes in the second period.

You do have to give San Jose's offense credit for turning it up in the latter part of the game, though. After Casey Mittelstadt's bizarre goal gave the Sabres a 2-1 lead, the Sharks turned things up and notch. They not only got more o-zone time but had a much better net-front presence. It's no wonder they were able to knot the score back up twice in the third period -- even if they weren't able to score the tie-breaking goal and get the win.

Going in for the kill

One of the biggest tests for the Sharks in Saturday's game was to stay out of the penalty box, given they were going up against one of the best power plays in the league. So, naturally, it was a bit of a nail-biter when San Jose got into a little penalty trouble in the second period.

San Jose did succeed in silencing Buffalo's power play, even if it wasn't very pretty. While Martin Jones wasn't quite as sharp on Saturday as he has been as of late, the team in front of him did a good job of halting the Sabres on the man advantage.

[RELATED: Marleau reflects on Sharks return]

The kid was all right

Noah Gregor didn't score a goal on Saturday night -- even though his new teammates tried to set him up for one. The 21-year-old forward did, however, have a good showing in his NHL debut, displaying a ton of speed as if he was already completely accustomed to the pace of a big-league game.

Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer said on Saturday morning that he would prefer it if one of San Jose's young players would seize the opportunity to be a regular on the team's fourth line with Dylan Gambrell and Melker Karlsson. Gregor only has one game under his belt, but he is already making a good case to stick around for a while.