McLellan among Sabres’ coaching candidates

San Jose Sharks head coach Todd McLellan smiles during a news conference in San Jose, Calif., Friday, May 13, 2011. (Paul Sakuma/AP)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Former San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan and minor-league coach Luke Richardson are among the initial candidates being considered by the Buffalo Sabres, two people familiar with the coaching search tell The Associated Press.

And the list is expected to grow in what is anticipated to be a lengthy coaching search process, said the people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Sabres are not commenting on their search to replace Ted Nolan, who was fired a day after the season ended on April 12.

No interviews have taken place yet. And the search, being led by general manager Tim Murray, isn’t expected to speed up until at least next week, when Sabres owner Terry Pegula can turn his attention away from the NFL draft, one of the people said. Pegula and his wife Kim purchased the Buffalo Bills in October.

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock could become a candidate if he does not re-sign with Detroit. The Red Wings’ season ended Wednesday after losing to Tampa Bay in Game 7 of their first-round series. Babcock has completed the final year of his contract.

In previously refusing to discuss his status, Babcock said he intends to provide an update during his end-of-season news conference.

McLellan and the Sharks mutually parted ways on April 20, after San Jose missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003. McLellan had a 311-163-66 record in seven seasons in San Jose.

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Richardson is a former NHL defenceman, who has spent the past three seasons coaching the Ottawa Senators AHL affiliate in Binghamton. He has ties to Murray. The Sabres GM was working as the Senators assistant general manager when he hired Richardson to take over in Binghamton.

The Sabres are rebuilding from scratch and coming off their second consecutive last-place finish.

In firing Nolan, Murray said he had difficulty establishing a good working relationship with the former coach over the past year. Murray called it a priority to have a comfort level when it comes to hiring his next coach.

Richardson certainly fits that category, while Babcock and Murray have ties that go back to Anaheim in 2002. Babcock coached the Ducks from 2002-04, when Murray served as the team’s player personnel director.

Babcock would become a highly sought after coaching candidate should he become a free agent. He coached the Red Wings to win the Stanley Cup in 2008, and has a 458-223-105 regular season record.

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