NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – Larry Robinson, who led the New Jersey Devils to a Stanley Cup title in 2000 but was fired less than two years later, returned Thursday as coach of the team.

Robinson replaces Pat Burns, who has been diagnosed with cancer for the second time in a little more than a year.

Burns, a three-time NHL Coach of the Year, had surgery earlier this month and was expected to undergo chemotherapy as well.

Since August 2002, Robinson served as a special assignment coach with the Devils and worked with players at the franchise’s minor league affiliate in Albany.

Robinson said his familiarity with the Devils and general manager Lou Lamoriello made the decision to return to head coaching an easy one.

“New Jersey gave me my start. I had a lot of success with New Jersey, I know the organization, and I have a lot of confidence in Lou, and that’s why this was the right combination,” he said.

Lamoriello fired Robinson in early 2002, a decision he called Thursday “one of the tougher decisions I’ve ever had to make.” Later that season, Robinson returned to the team after assistant John Cunniff died of cancer.

“Lou and I have spoken since that time and we both know that’s part of hockey,” Robinson said. “It’s his job to put forth a winning combination and it’s my job to win, and at that point we weren’t winning.”

Robinson, a Hall of Fame defenseman who also took the Devils to the Cup finals in 2001, got his first NHL coaching job as an assistant with the Devils in 1993, and he was on staff when the Devils won their first championship in 1995. Later that year, he was hired as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings, where he spent four seasons.

Robinson holds a career coaching record of 195-210-64, including 73-49-19 with the Devils.

“As much as you want to stay within the framework of your organization, you have to have somebody who can get the job done,” Lamoriello said. “With our young players and our system in place, I couldn’t think of anyone better as a teacher and a leader.”

The 53-year-old Burns had surgery and chemotherapy for colon cancer following the 2003-04 season. His treatment would have prevented him from coaching in 2004-05, but a lockout forced the cancellation of the season.

AP-ES-07-14-05 1430EDT

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