Thursday, November 15, 2018
  • Lightning Strikes

Ryan Callahan regaining his confidence for Lightning

When the Lightning put wing Ryan Callahan back on the power play a month ago, there were many reasons for the move.

With Ondrej Palat suffering a lower-body injury Jan. 20, Tampa Bay needed a replacement who was fearless in front of the net and a relentless puck retriever.

Callahan, 32, checked both boxes.

It also didn't hurt that the Lightning was hoping to get Callahan going. The veteran was in the worst scoring slump of his career, with just one goal and six points in his first 38 games.

"I thought (the power play) was a good opportunity for me to take advantage of," Callahan said.

And he has. Callahan's two points in the Lightning's 4-2 win over the
Capitals on Tuesday was just the latest example. Callahan's beautiful backhand pass set up Brayden Point on a power play for the game's first goal, just two minutes in. Saturday, Callahan delivered a behind-the-back dish — which threaded through a Devils defender's legs — to Chris Kunitz for a one-timer.

These are the kinds of skilled plays that Callahan has shown throughout his career, including 24 goals in 2014-15, but that had been fleeting this season. Callahan said the taste of power-play time might have been a turning point.

"It's not necessarily getting points. It's just getting feels for the
puck helps your confidence tremendously," Callahan said. "That confidence is back to where I can make plays with the puck and make those plays that maybe earlier in the year weren't happening for me."

Callahan entered the season hungrier than he has ever been, especially
after missing most of last year due to two hip surgeries. Though he had just one goal in the first 2 1/2 months, he was happy with how many chances he was getting. Callahan's impact on the game goes beyond the box score. He brings his ferocious forecheck and contagious energy to his leadership in the dressing room and on penalty kill.

Yet, Callahan, who makes $5.8 million annually through 2019-20, puts pressure on himself to score, too.

That's what makes this recent stretch so encouraging, for h Callahan and the Lightning. As deep as this team is, if it can get secondary scoring from the likes of Callahan and linemate Kunitz (who scored his 10th goal of the season Tuesday), Tampa Bay will be even more dangerous come playoff time.

Coach Jon Cooper said Callahan's line with Kunitz and Vladislav Namestnikov was the Lightning's best line Tuesday. And Callahan, whose 16:58 of ice time was his second highest of the season, was a big reason why.

"I feel good about my game right now," Callahan said. "And I've just got to keep going with it."

DUMONT BACK: The Lightning got forward Gabriel Dumont back, claiming him off waivers Wednesday from Ottawa.

Dumont, 27, was reassigned to AHL Syracuse, where he will provide a veteran presence. He's a potential callup option down the stretch for a bottom-six role and as a faceoff specialist.

Rookie forward Matt Peca was also reassigned to Syracuse. He had two goals and three assists, and was plus-6 with the Lightning this season in a 10-game callup.

The Lightning had lost Dumont on waivers this season, and he ended up playing in 23 games for the Senators (one goal, one assist). No callups are coming in return from Syracuse, assistant general manager Julien BriseBois said.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] [email protected]_JSmith.

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