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Bowness gets opportunity with Stars, wins first game

Coached five other NHL teams, was assistant before replacing fired Montgomery

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / Staff Writer

DALLAS -- Rick Bowness says he wondered if he would ever be a coach in the NHL again. Now he gets his chance.

Bowness was named coach of the Dallas Stars on Tuesday, replacing Jim Montgomery, who was fired earlier in the day for "unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League," according to general manager Jim Nill, who provided no other reasons for the dismissal.

Bowness, who will coach the Stars for the remainder of the season, started Tuesday with a 2-0 win against the New Jersey Devils at American Airlines Center.

"Even at my age, as a coach in this League, you want to take another shot at it," the 64-year-old said before the game. "It means a lot to me to have another kick at it, for sure. I mean, there are a lot more years behind me than ahead of me, and I get all that.

"But we're just going to enjoy every day and make the most of it. I'm fortunate to be given this opportunity, I'm fortunate that ownership and management have faith in me to take this offer, faith in the coaching staff, that we don't have to make a lot of changes. So, we're very, very fortunate with that."

Bowness, who was 123-289-3 with 48 ties for the Winnipeg Jets (1988-89), Boston Bruins (1991-92), Ottawa Senators (1992-96), New York Islanders (1996-98) and Phoenix Coyotes (2003-04), joined the Stars as an assistant on June 22, 2018. Before that, he was an assistant with the Vancouver Canucks from 2006-13 and an associate with the Tampa Bay Lightning from 2013-18.  

He said he's interviewed for head coaching jobs during the past several seasons, but this is his first one since he was with the Coyotes 15 years ago.

"I've already warned the defense that they haven't heard the last of me," said Bowness, who deployed the defensemen during games when Montgomery was coach. "And I told the forwards, I haven't run a bench in like 16 years, so let's try to be a little patient today. But we'll figure it out as we go along."

Bowness said he will manage the forwards during games, while assistant John Stevens, a former NHL coach with the Philadelphia Flyers and Los Angeles Kings, will handle the defensemen. Derek Laxdal, who was promoted to an assistant with the Stars after coaching Texas of the American Hockey League since July 3, 2014, will run the power play. Bowness will continue to coach the penalty kill.

"He brings a lot of energy to this group and he brought a lot of energy on the bench," Stars forward Joe Pavelski said after the win Tuesday. "It was a game where we established our game early on and we were able to roll four lines. It was a night where we felt like we owned throughout the game."

The Stars (18-11-3) are playing well, going 17-4-2 in their past 22 games after a 1-7-1 start, and held the first wild card for the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Dallas made it to the Western Conference Second Round last season, losing to the eventual Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues in seven games.

"He's been so experienced in this League for so many years, so there's no doubt we still have trust in our coaches," Stars defenseman John Klingberg said. "He's going to be the same person, same guy around the locker room. That's not going to change."

The message Bowness delivered to his players was simple.

"Be professional. I think we all knew that, but that was the message," Stars center Tyler Seguin said. "No one expected this, including him and the coaching staff. Just be a pro. 

"With [Bowness] stepping in, the guys have so much respect for him and his resume. He's been in this league for 40 or 45 years, or whatever it may be. We're going to support him. I think it's going to be a work in progress maybe today and you can think about your feelings tomorrow when we're not playing. But today, it's put that to the side, get to work and have a good game tonight."

Bowness, who played 173 NHL games with four teams in six seasons from 1975-76 to 1980-81, said he and the players will work together to put the change behind them and focus on the goals that remain.

"The shock? Yeah, we have to deal with it. That shock will not [pass] over just because there's a game. That's going to stay with us for a while because we're all very close to [Montgomery] and he's close with the players," Bowness said. "As men, as professionals, we signed contracts to do our utmost every game, and that's what we're going to do."

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