So much for the NHL schedule-makers’ best-laid plans.

Winnipeg’s game on Monday night at Dallas was supposed to feature the return of former Stars head coach Rick Bowness — who stepped down after three seasons in May — behind the Jets’ bench. But Bowness, who coached Dallas to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in six games to Tampa Bay, won’t be on hand after testing positive for COVID-19.

Associate coach Scott Arniel took over hours before Winnipeg’s season-opening 4-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Friday and will handle bench duties until Bowness returns.

“He’s still down and out and said he had a tough night,” Arniel said after the team’s practice on Saturday. “I’m sure he’ll continue to get better and hopefully the worst is behind him.”

Monday’s game at Dallas kicks off a three-game road trip for the Jets that includes a back-to-back Wednesday and Thursday at defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado and the Vegas Golden Knights.

“We’re hoping (Bowness) can fly into Colorado after the five days,” Arniel said.

Not having Bowness behind the bench for Friday’s opener caught his team by surprise.

“Yeah, shocking,” said forward Kyle Connor, who scored a goal. “That was kind of weird. You go through the whole training camp expecting coach to be there, and to find out as soon as you get to the rink. We just hope he’s okay and when he’s back, he’s back.”

Arniel said he received about 15 text messages, including some video clips, to go over from Bowness early Saturday morning.

Connor Hellebuyck made 40 saves, including 21 in the second period alone, and Mark Scheifele scored two goals to highlight the victory over the Rangers.

“That’s a big win against a good team,” Scheifele said.

Dallas and new head coach Peter DeBoer began the season with an impressive home-and-home sweep of Nashville, outscoring the Predators 9-2 in the process.

“It’s huge,” said defenseman Miro Heiskanen, who had a goal and an assist in the two wins. “Great start for us, so now we need to keep going and keep playing like this.”

Forward Roope Hintz tallied two goals, including one short-handed, and an assist in Saturday’s 5-1 victory.

“It’s of course good,” Hintz said. “I think we’ve been playing really well the past two games. Now Monday it’s going to be the Jets coming in here so we have to keep building like that and keep playing like that. It’s going to be fun.”

The Stars’ top line of Hintz, Jason Robertson and Joe Pavelski combined for eight points and three goals on Saturday. Heiskanen also scored a goal and Mason Marchment — signed as a free agent in July after a breakout season with the Florida Panthers — added an empty-net goal, his third marker of the season. Goalie Jake Oettinger picked up the win in both contests, stopping a combined 60 of 62 shots.

“I think we’re starting to believe,” Pavelski said of implementing DeBoer’s new system. “We’re starting to understand what it takes, how we’re playing and how we want to play and the standard we want to set.”

–Field Level Media