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Golden Knights, DeBoer set to move forward together

New coach settling in after whirlwind hire, victory in debut

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

OTTAWA -- Peter DeBoer's strange and wild journey to becoming coach of the Vegas Golden Knights is about to find some much-needed stability.

"It'll be nice for both the players and I," DeBoer said Thursday on his way to the Golden Knights bus after a 4-2 victory against the Ottawa Senators at Canadian Tire Centre in his Vegas coaching debut. "We can finally get to work after what's been a crazy couple of days."

Two days after replacing Gerard Gallant, who was fired Wednesday, DeBoer will be able to oversee his first practice as Vegas coach and let his players know what is expected of them. In what has been a chaotic week for all involved, Xs and Os might just be what the Golden Knights need.

Having ended a four-game losing streak on Thursday, Vegas (25-19-6) will practice in Montreal on Friday before facing the Canadiens at Bell Centre on Saturday (7 p.m. ET; CITY, SNE, TVAS, ATTSN-RM, NHL.TV). 

The victory against the Senators provided a snapshot of the Golden Knights' talent pool that made the job so enticing to DeBoer, who was fired as coach of the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 11. From forward Mark Stone's two points night (one goal, one assist) to goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's 33-save performance, the veteran coach was pumped at how his new team responded to the change.

"I told the players it was a tough week for them," DeBoer said. "I thought they responded in a great way, they poured their energy into the game and played the right way and got rewarded for it. Hopefully it leads to a bit of a roll here.

"You don't have time to institute [a new game plan] right away. It's just a matter of them putting their minds to playing to their identity. When they're playing like that -- aggressive, on their toes, fast, hard -- they're a hard team to handle and have been for a long time."

Stone agreed with DeBoer's assessment.

"We know we have a good team," he said. "We know we need to be better. We have to see what Pete wants us to do but we know we have to get back to playing with the character we have."

Asked what it was like to see DeBoer, who coached the rival Sharks for five seasons, walk into the dressing room, Stone didn't mince words.

"Weird," he said.

A term applicable for each side.

Video: Rosen on what DeBoer will bring to Golden Knights

It was last spring when DeBoer and the Sharks defeated the Golden Knights in seven games in the best-of-seven Western Conference First Round. It was a highly emotional series that featured Gallant, the first coach in Vegas history, at one point referring to DeBoer as "a clown."

Given that history, DeBoer knew his hiring would be awkward for the players.

"It's like meeting an ex-girlfriend when it didn't end well," he said.

Forward Ryan Reaves decided to extend a peace offering when DeBoer arrived at Canadian Tire Centre at noon on Thursday, so he asked his new coach if he wanted a hug.

"I declined," DeBoer said, breaking into laughter.

It was a lighthearted way to break the ice. 

"I think [the coaching change] was a bit of motivation," Reaves said after the win. "I think it was a kick in the butt seeing a big part of the team (Gallant) leave. It kind of woke everybody up."

When center Paul Stastny opened the scoring 34 seconds into the game, it alleviated some of the butterflies for the coach and players alike.

"I told them if I call any of them Jumbo (center Joe Thornton) or Burnsie (defenseman Brent Burns) to cut me," DeBoer said, referring to two of his former Sharks players. "At least I didn't make any mistakes. 

"It's a good group and after some tough days I thought it was nice to get a win and get past that."

With the Golden Knights headed for Montreal, one of DeBoer's priorities was to get skates that fit. 

When he got the call offering him the Vegas job Wednesday, he was sitting poolside with his wife and daughter in Florida. He didn't have skates with him. Or a suit, for that matter.

During a stopover in Toronto, he was greeted by Steve Spott, his longtime friend and one of his assistants in San Jose. Spott, who was fired along with DeBoer by the Sharks, took him suit shopping so he'd have something to wear behind the bench Thursday.

"At least that's taken care of," he laughed. "It's been a whirlwind, that's for sure.

"That's why it'll be nice to get to work. This is a good group. I'm looking forward to it."

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