TAMPA — Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper didn't mince words when describing the Lightning's upcoming three-game western road trip: the team has to get some points.
The teams in the middle of the Eastern Conference are jumbled together with a total of six points separating the fourth-ranked Senators and the 12th-ranked Flyers.
Tampa Bay is sitting 10th with 25 points. One bad road trip or one bad weekend like the team had Friday and Saturday can cause a huge shift in the standings. And while there are 57 games left for Tampa Bay (11-11-3), Cooper wants his team to get on a roll starting Wednesday at Anaheim.
"Everybody is chipping away except for us," Cooper said of his team. "It sure seems like it takes a long time to gain ground in the standings, but it doesn't take too long to lose ground. …There's no woulda, coulda, shoulda. We have to get points."
Special teams hurt the Lightning over the weekend. Before Friday's game at Washington, the Lightning had killed 44 of 49 opponents' power plays in the previous 18 games. Over the weekend, the team allowed five power-play goals and dropped from 14th to 26th.
The Lightning's 22nd-ranked power play hasn't had much of a spark lately either. Tampa Bay has failed to notch a goal with the extra-man advantage in six of its past seven contests.
"You need wins right now," forward Ryan Callahan said. "It's hard to pinpoint one thing, lack of execution, effort. It's everything on the power play right now. It needs to be better."
Tampa Bay could get some help with some injured players returning. Jonathan Drouin (undisclosed) and Cedric Paquette (upper body) practiced Monday and could play by Wednesday. Both have missed six straight games. Tyler Johnson, who missed Saturday's game with an undisclosed injury, did not practice but Cooper said he is making the trip.
Cooper thinks their return could pick things up for Tampa Bay, who also play Saturday at San Jose and Sunday at Los Angeles. Tampa Bay next plays at home Dec. 10 against Ottawa.
"It seems like when the power play goes 2-for-5, we win 7-0," Cooper said. "When we need the power play to go 2-for-5 or 1-for-4, the game where it's 1-0 or 1-1 (we don't get one). And then you look at the last two games, we outscore the teams 5-on-5 and we lost both games. We lost both games because we gave up power-play goals.
"It seems like when you plug one hole, two more open up in the boat," he said. "There's frustration in the group but the guys' spirits are good. We know we've got a few important players on the shelf that are nearing their way back. Our (AHL) callups have given us a great boost but I think we'll get an even bigger boost when some of these guys come back."
Move: Tampa Bay recalled defenseman Nikita Nesterov and sent defenseman Luke Witkowski back to AHL Syracuse.