Red Wings' Blashill: Lightning 'really rolling now'
Coach Jon Cooper said tonight's showdown with the Red Wings will be a "measuring stick" for the Lightning.
Apparently, Detroit feels the same way about Tampa Bay, which beat the Red Wings in a seven-game series in the first round of the playoffs in April. Detorit won the first two meetings this season, but the Lightning has won eight of its last nine to move into a tie for second in the Atlantic Division.
"They're healthy now and early in the year, they weren't healthy," Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "Nobody uses that as an excuse, that's why it's probably not talked about enough. But when you lose unique players, usually you see those teams dip a little bit. Once they got back it takes a while to get rolling, but they certainly look like they're rolling now. They've got a lot of really good players, they're well-coached, they're what everybody thought they were at the beginning of the year, that's one of the best teams in the East. I think it has much to do with health as anything."
Blashill, long-timem friends with Cooper, said he's leaned on his buddy for advice this season, his first as an NHL coach.
"I talk to Coop alot, we bounces off each other lots," Blashill said. "Our friendship goes beyond the two jobs we currently hold. We've been friends a long time, I think we help each other in our coaching careers whether it's been through advice, whether it's been learning from each other, I know I've learned a lot from him both from watching his teams play to watching the way he handles his team and from different interactions.
"Beyond that, we're really good friends. I'm not positive who my youngest son is rooting for tonight, if it's my team or Coop's team. That says a lot about our friendship."
More from morning: The Lightning held a morning skate, with only Steven Stamkos and J.T. Brown not participating. G Ben Bishop will start in net, with D Matt Carle and RW Jonathan Marchessault likely to be scratched. BIshop said he enjoyed every minute of his first All-Star experience, grateful to get a chance to share it with a lot of friends and family, who made the trip. Bishop said he got to preview prototypes for smaller goalie equipment, and didn't see much of a difference. "When I saw it I didn't even nkow it was the new one," Bishop said. Former Lightning star Brad Richards has just five goals in 35 games with Detroit, and is playing wing, but he's taking it all in stride. "Three teams in three years, so obviously nothing is as comfortable as when you're on the same team all the time," Richards said. "We're in a good position team-wise to make a run in the last 30 some games, and probably a long season. At this point in my career, it's all about getting in the playoffs and making another run."