A four-point separation in the standings doesn't seem that daunting, except when 10 games remain in the season and that is the ground you have to make up to reach the playoffs.
With that in mind, and with everything that has gone wrong this season for the Lightning, coach Jon Cooper was asked after Monday's practice if making this late-season run would be considered a moral victory even if the Lightning came up short.
Cooper said no.
"We can't pat ourselves on the back and say, 'We tried,' " he said.
On Tuesday, the Lightning found itself in a "must win" game against the Coyotes, one of the worst teams in the league.
"Funny how things work out," Cooper said.
But, he added, had this season gone as planned and the Lightning was steamrolling toward the postseason, he would still be sweating out the final weeks of the regular season.
"Just in a different way," he said. "In years past you could drop this game and be a little aggravated but understand it's okay, you're well enough ahead to make the plays. But we don't have that, and maybe there is a little fear factor of maybe not making the playoffs setting in, and that can be an added incentive to win."
No hard feelings
D Anthony DeAngelo, the Lightning's first-round pick in the 2014, said Tuesday he felt he was treated fairly by the organization despite being traded during last June's draft to the Coyotes for a second-round pick (37th overall).
"Yeah, they were good. No hard feelings with them," DeAngelo said. "Everything is fine."
DeAngelo was the 19th overall pick in the draft. He had an up-and-down season during his one year with Syracuse — 37 points, a healthy scratch eight times. The perception is DeAngelo wore out his welcome with the organization, which is why it moved him so soon despite the fact the Lightning could use a right-handed shot defenseman.
DeAngelo welcomed the fresh start. He made his NHL debut on Nov. 8. He was suspended for three games in January for Physical Abuse of an Official after pushing an official off him while trying to rejoin a fight.
"That was a tough one," he said. "I obviously didn't mean to give a push there. I was just trying to get back in the pile. That's the rule. That's on me. Learn from that stuff and move on. It's been really good since."
. D Libor Hajek, drafted in June with the pick acquired in the DeAngelo trade, signed a three-year entry level contract Tuesday.
. Still no timetables for the return C Cedric Paquette (lower body) and C Tyler Johnson (lower body). Paquette skated Tuesday morning for the second straight day while wearing a red no-contact jersey.
. D Victor Hedman and D Anton Stralman exchanged jerseys after Tuesday's game with Joe Cole and Marcel Schafer of the Rowdies.