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Coach Jon Cooper, Lightning interested in staying together

Lightning coach Jon Cooper’s contract is up at the end of the season, but talks regarding an extension are believed to have started.
Published Oct. 14, 2015

DETROIT — Signing captain Steven Stamkos isn't the only order of business for Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman this season.

Like Stamkos, coach Jon Cooper is also in the final year of his current contract. Don't be surprised if there's an extension worked out with Cooper, as it is believed that talks have begun.

Neither Cooper nor Yzerman would comment on the situation, but it appears both are interested in remaining together. Cooper, 48, has been very successful in two-plus seasons behind Tampa Bay's bench, going 103-60-20 after Tuesday's loss to the Red Wings. Cooper, a Jack Adams Award finalist as the league's top coach in 2014, led the Lightning to the Stanley Cup final last season.

Back to Bish: G Ben Bishop made his fourth consecutive start, with the lineup exactly the same as the previous three games except for D Nikita Nesterov, who made his season debut in place of D Andrej Sustr. C Cedric Paquette was scratched. Cooper said Sustr was a healthy scratch, giving a chance to Nesterov, who held his own, a minus-1 in 17:19. "Nesterov was really good," Cooper said. "I thought he made some really good plays. Really happy with him."

Familiar foe: Having admittedly eked out a seven-game, first-round series win in April against the Red Wings, Cooper indicated Detroit could be one of the Lightning's biggest challengers in the Atlantic Division, and Eastern Conference. "Not only are they a playoff team, they're a division title contender," Cooper said. "That's how good they are."

Fast friends: Cooper and new Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill are close friends, having met 15 years ago coaching together in Michigan. Both said they've learned a lot from each other throughout their journeys to the NHL, pulling for the other when they're not on opposing benches. Cooper and Blashill coached against each other in the USHL and AHL. Tuesday was their first NHL meeting.

Another shot: Former Lightning star Brad Richards had a whirlwind summer. After winning the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks, beating Tampa Bay, he headed to Hawaii to marry his wife, Rechelle. Once Richards got back, he had his "Cup Day" in Prince Edward Island. Richards said his second championship — the other with the 2004 Lightning — gave him a new appreciation on how hard it is to get back. "A little more relief this time around," Richards said. "But very similar in the journey and stuff that you will never forget."

On No. 500: Monday, C Steven Stamkos became the third player with 500 points for the Lightning, joining Marty St. Louis (953) and Vinny Lecavalier (874). He was the fifth fastest active player at 500 (in 495 games), behind only Sidney Crosby (369), Alex Ovechkin (373), Evgeni Malkin (413) and Jaromir Jagr (419).

Minor matters: D Dominik Masin signed a three-year, entry level contract. Masin, 19, a second-round pick in 2014, is playing for Peterborough (OHL). Brayden Point won WHL player of the week and fellow forward prospect Dennis Yan was QMJHL player of the week. The two combined for three hat tricks.

Contact Joe Smith at joesmith@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

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