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Lightning's Cooper 'smoother' than Blashill but similar

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News
Jon Cooper

Detroit – The Jeff Blashill Friends in Coaching Tour continues Tuesday when the Red Wings host Tampa Bay.

Over the weekend Blashill faced Mike Babcock (Toronto) and Bill Peters (Carolina); he worked with both with the Red Wings.

Now Blashill takes on Jon Cooper, one of Blashill's best friends in or out of the hockey world. The two met while coaching the Team Michigan squads at the USA Hockey Festival, and the friendship developed from there.

"Coop is one of the really good friends," Blashill said. "We met through hockey originally about 15 years ago. Time flies, for sure, but him and I are alike.

"In some ways, maybe not -- he's a lot smoother than I am."

The two coached against each other in junior hockey. Blashill would recruit some of Cooper's players when Blashill was at Western Michigan, and the two have maintained contact from there, making sure to spend time together in the summer.

Wings' Pulkkinen finding his scoring touch

Cooper took Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup Finals last season – defeating the Red Wings in the first round to get the ball rolling.

"I'm not surprised at all by Coop's success," Blashill said. "If you know Coop, he's a very smart, intelligent person and he has a great way about him. He commands players' respect and players appreciate who he is.

"I don't know what a 'players' coach' means. He holds his players accountable but they also seem to like him and they have his respect. I would hope it's the same for me."

This will be the first time the Red Wings and Lightning meet since last season's exciting playoff series. Being up 3-2 in the series, only to see the Lightning rally, was tough for the Wings to forget this offseason.

"It's never easy to lose like we did in Game 7 (2-0), and see Tampa do as well as they did hurts that much more," said Justin Abdelkader, who was named the NHL's First Star of the Week for his four goals in two games last week. "We know we're close. We have work to do, maintain the level of play throughout the year and give yourself a chance in the playoffs.

"They're a team that won the conference; they have a big target on their chest. We took them to seven games and we feel we match up real well with them. We play similar type of hockey and systems and it should be a lot of fun."

Ice chips

Goaltender Jimmy Howard will get the start against Tampa, said Blashill.

... Darren Helm (concussion, shoulder) skated on a line with Luke Glendening and Drew Miller during Monday's practice and appears capable of returning for Tuesday's game.

Helm said he needs to talk to doctors Monday, and Blashill said a decision on activating Helm will come Tuesday.

Activating Helm will make for a tricky personnel decision, as someome will have to be sent to Grand Rapids.

... Danny DeKeyser (foot) skated briefly Monday but is likely another couple weeks away from being close to playing.

Lightning at Red Wings

Faceoff: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Joe Louis Arena.

TV/radio: NBC Sports Network; 97.1 The Ticket, 1270-AM.

Outlook: This is a rematch of last season's exciting Eastern Conference first-round playoff series, which Tampa Bay rallied to win in seven games. This will conclude a three-games-in-four-days trip for Tampa, which played Monday in Boston.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tkulfan