TAMPA — The Lightning's Jon Cooper and the Red Wings' Jeff Blashill know their teams are fighting for the same playoff spots in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.
But the coaches — and longtime friends — have also helped each other along the way. Blashill, in his first year as an NHL coach, said he has sometimes leaned on Cooper for advice.
"I talk to 'Coop' a lot. We bounce off each other a lot," Blashill said before Wednesday's game between the teams. "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 (Wednesday), if it's my team or Coop's team. That says a lot about our friendship."
Cooper said that due to scheduling, he doesn't talk to Blashill much during the season, but he chats with him more than other coaches. "Besides the few mocking text messages that come back and forth between us, we haven't talked a whole ton," Cooper said. "But if there's somebody you want to bounce something off, he'd be the first one of my calls. And I think I'd be for him as well."
LINING UP: D Matt Carle and RW Jonathan Marchessault were scratches for the Lightning. RW Erik Condra was back in the lineup. G Ben Bishop started.
EQUIPMENT TEST: Bishop said he enjoyed every minute of his first All-Star experience last weekend and was grateful to share it with a lot of friends and family who made the trip from St. Louis to Nashville. Bishop said he also got to test prototypes for proposed smaller goalie equipment and didn't notice much of a difference. "When I saw it, I didn't even know it was the new one," he said.
ONE-TRACK MIND: Former Lightning star C Brad Richards entered Wednesday with just five goals in 35 games with Detroit and playing a different position, wing. But for Richards, 35, on his third team in three years after winning the Stanley Cup last season with the Blackhawks, sees the bigger picture.
"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. At this point in my career, it's all about getting in the playoffs and making another run."
NUTS AND BOLTS: GM Steve Yzerman will participate in a Red Wings alumni game against the Avalanche on Feb. 26 at Coors Field, an event that precedes the teams' outdoor game. … The Blues continue to be a presence at Lightning games, with director of player personnel Rob DiMaio at Wednesday's game. Assistant GM Marty Brodeur attended the Jan. 23 game against the Panthers in Sunrise. … The Lightning was scheduled to practice at noon today at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon.