DALLAS (AP)No bones about it, the Dallas Stars still love Rick Bowness. They will have to wait until next month to see the former coach who took them to the Stanley Cup Final just more than two years ago.

Bowness, now Winnipeg’s coach, missed Monday night’s game in Dallas because of a positive COVID-19 test that also kept the 67-year-old coach out of the season opener three nights earlier.

”Our time together was awesome,” Stars captain captain Jamie Benn said after the morning skate.

”He’s just a guy that has the biggest heart I’ve ever met for a coach and as a person,” Tyler Seguin said. ”He wears it on the ice, obviously on the bench, and he wears it off the ice most importantly. So he’s just a guy that no matter what, he doesn’t change.”

The Stars, who won 4-1 on Monday night, are scheduled to play in Winnipeg in three weeks, on Nov. 8. The Jets will be back in Dallas on Nov. 25 to wrap up the regular-season series between the teams.

Bowness’ contract with the Stars expired after last season, which ended with an overtime loss in Game 7 against Calgary in the first round of the playoffs. Days later, he said he was stepping away to let the Dallas organization pursue a different direction, and that the move didn’t necessarily mean he was done with coaching.

Winnipeg, where he coached the final 28 games of the 1988-89 season, hired Bowness as its new head coach in early July.

Benn said he does wonder if things would have been different had the Stars won another game in last season’s playoffs, but said as far as the ”captain and the relationship with the head coach, I had a great one in Bones.”

Seguin and Benn they still stay in touch with Bowness and his wife, Judy.

Over a career that has spanned five different decades, Bowness has been on an NHL bench for a record 2,562 regular-season games as a head coach or an assistant.

”There’s very few guys that have been in the game as long as him. You can’t find anybody that has a bad word about the man,” new Stars coach Pete DeBoer said. ”He did a fantastic job here, and a foundation of defending and being hard to play against and playoff success. … His fingerprints are on this group from his time here.”

Bowness was 89-62-25 as head coach in Dallas, where he was a second-year assistant before being named interim head coach in December 2019 after Jim Montgomery was fired for off-ice issues. Bowness led the Stars to the Stanley Cup Final during the pandemic-interrupted season that ended in the NHL bubble in Canada. The interim tag was removed after that, and he got a two-year contract as head coach.

Seguin said there was no person better than Bowness to handle such a situation.

”Just the way he can bring a group together, the way he can bring a group with wives and girlfriends and just the whole family-oriented place, it’s a place that everyone felt comfortable in, a place that was accountable, but we were definitely family first,” Seguin said. ”When you talk about a man … someone you want to look up to as far as a leader or a husband or just how to operate as a human being in the world, Bones is one of the first guys come to mind.”

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