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Penguins' Bylsma, Senators' MacLean share long history

| Wednesday, May 15, 2013, 11:06 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma talks to his team during a timeout aganst the Senators on Tuesday, May 14, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and Paul MacLean, his Ottawa Senators' counterpart, needed no introduction before their teams met at Consol Energy Center on Tuesday in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals.

They had coached against each other during the last two regular seasons after MacLean got the Ottawa job. But they share a longer history.

Bylsma was a player and MacLean a coach in the IHL during the 1990s. Most notably, they worked together for the Anaheim Ducks during the 2003 and '04 seasons — MacLean was an assistant coach under Mike Babcock, and Bylsma was a player of modest ability who gave maximum effort.

“Dan was a very professional player and a real student of the game,” MacLean said. “He worked very hard to get to the National Hockey League.”

Bylsma noted one of MacLean's responsibilities with the Ducks was overseeing the power play.

“I didn't see a lot of him,” Bylsma said.

The Ducks had Paul Kariya and other gifted offensive players. That was one reason. Another is that Bylsma, a winger, scored 19 goals in 429 games during his career with the Kings and Ducks.

“We passed in the hallway and stuff,” Bylsma said of MacLean. “I was with Lorne Henning, the penalty-kill coach, more than I was with Paul.”

But Bylsma said he spent enough time with MacLean to appreciate his work.

“He was the forwards coach, as well,” said Bylsma, who added he was familiar with MacLean's success as a minor league coach. “I don't know what he's like as a head coach but he was a very good assistant coach. ... He was a guy who I personally had a great relationship with and helped me out in my role with the forward group.”

MacLean sports an outsized mustache and an earnest, engaging personality that seems to have taken hold with a franchise that had four coaches in the four seasons before he was hired.

“He looks like he has the same demeanor, a quality about him that I liked when he was in Anaheim,” Bylsma said.

MacLean, 55, was the better player. He represented Canada in the 1980 Miracle On Ice Winter Olympics and scored 324 goals in 11 NHL seasons.

But Bylsma has been an NHL coach longer. He got the Penguins job in February 2009, replacing the fired Michel Therrien. MacLean, whose team dropped the first game of the series, 4-1, is finishing his second season on the Senators' bench.

MacLean recalls Bylsma mainly as a fourth-line player and penalty killer “and a real good teammate,” he said. “And I think those are real good qualities as coaches.

“In the years we had him in Anaheim, he'd stick around and ask questions and just felt he'd be a guy who with an opportunity would stay in the game,” MacLean said. “And it hasn't surprised me that he's had success.”

Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bcohn@tribweb.com or via Twitter@BCohn_Trib.

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