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Familiar faces aplenty as Bolts host Stars on Thursday

Rick Bowness and Ben Bishop were both present for some of the Lightning's biggest successes in recent years

by Bryan Burns @BBurnsNHL /

Familiar faces return to AMALIE Arena tonight when the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Dallas Stars (7 p.m. puck drop).

Former Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop arrives as the Stars No. 1 netminder, although he won't be between the pipes against Tampa Bay as Anton Khudobin will get the start with the Stars beginning a back-to-back set in Tampa.

And behind the Dallas bench as the man in charge will be interim head coach Rick Bowness, who spent five seasons as the associate head coach for the Lightning on Jon Cooper's staff.

Bowness was named interim head coach on December 10 after the dismissal of Jim Montgomery for what was termed unprofessional conduct.

Video: Cooper on what Dallas brings to the table

Bowness has spent parts of nine seasons as a head coach in the NHL with Winnipeg, Boston, Ottawa, the New York Islanders, Phoenix and now Dallas.

"If they play with his personality, there will be a lot of passion in their game," Cooper said when asked how the Stars play under Bowness. "Bonesy cares. For me, when I was brand new to the League, Bonesy was the guy that guided me through it. A lot of the principles I have today was a lot of help from him. It's great to see him, not under these circumstances, obviously to get a chance and whatever his team does, it's definitely going to work hard."

Tonight will be Bowness' second trip to AMALIE Arena as a member of an opposing coaching staff since leaving the Lightning. He said he enjoys his time in Tampa and doesn't find it weird to set up residence in the visitors' locker room rather than the Lightning room.

"I left here on good terms," Bowness said. "I was happy to leave. There's no bitter feelings, there's nothing like that at all."
Bowness was asked how his time with the Lightning helped shape his approach with the Stars.

"I had five great years here, went to the Cup Final, to the Conference Finals three separate times. We had productive years," Bowness said. "At the end of five years, probably time to move on and we did. I'm thrilled to be in Dallas. Very, very happy to be in Dallas. This is a position that I have today that I never envisioned when I went to Dallas and kind of just fell on me. All I want to do is make the best of it and take advantage of it and see if we can keep this team playing well. We had five great years here and it was time to move on. That's the job."

Lightning fans will be robbed of the intriguing mentor vs. pupil, Bishop vs. Vasilevskiy matchup tonight as the Stars will go with their backup netminder. In Bishop's lone return trip to AMALIE Arena as an opposing goalie since his trade to the Los Angeles Kings on February 26, 2017, he was shelled for six goals in a 6-1 loss to the Lightning November 16, 2017.

Later that season, the Lightning got to Bishop again for five goals in a 5-4 overtime victory March 1, 2018 at in Dallas.

Video: Stamkos on Ben Bishop's legacy with the Bolts

"Bish is obviously going to be a fan favorite here forever," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "Had some great runs with him in net. He's an even better person and teammate. Still good buddies with him, so anytime we get a chance to see him it's great.

Bishop led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 and backstopped a team that advanced to back-to-back Conference Finals. He left Tampa Bay as the record holder for every major goaltending statistic in franchise history, nearly all of which have been surpassed by Vasilevskiy, who will tie Bishop for most career starts all-time for the Lightning with his next start, which appears to be tonight.

"Not enough words to describe what Bish did for us," Cooper said. "You look back at the turning point of I guess my era with this team, you can pin a lot of it on the trade for Ben Bishop. He's a stand-up guy. When we acquired him, it stabilized a position that kind of probably had been lacking here for a few years. And then also what he did in the time that he was here. The other thing is too I thought he was a great mentor for Vasy. He not only stopped the puck for us but he's helped one of the best goalies in the League become that way, so we thank him for that."

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