Ryan Callahan returning tonight for Lightning
Veteran wing Ryan Callahan is finally returning to the Lightning lineup tonight.
"There's no question it's been a while," Callahan said. "It's definitely good to be back."
Callahan had missed the last 15 games due to lingering soreness in his surgically-repaired hip. He's been close to coming back a few times the past month, but suffered setbacks. This time, after his hip responded in back-to-back team skates Saturday and Monday, Callahan felt "ready to go."
And Callahan, a key penalty killer and relentless forechecker, is confident he can play his physical game.
"It's the only way I'm going to come back if I'm able to do that," Callahan said. "Everything feels good. Nothing is limiting me. I should be able to play I want to."
Callahan's presence on the penalty kill will be big, considering center Brian Boyle (lower body) is out tonight and appears doubtful Thursday against Nashville. But considering Callahan's last game was Nov. 27, there will be some adjustments.
"Anytime you miss a lot of time like this, it's the timing," Callahan said. "The biggest thing is getting used to the game speed again. No matter how much conditioning and stuff you do, there's nothing like going out there and playing, taking hits and giving hits. It's going to take a little bit of time to get that down."
But Callahan's presence, both on the ice and off, is welcomed.
"He brings 110 percent every single night," center Tyler Johnson said. "You miss that. You miss him sacrificing his body, putting it on the line every opportunity, whether it be a hit or blocked shot. That really rubs off on everybody. You see that he's laying everything on the line, so you need to do it as well. He's a leader on our team. Hopefully we can get him back here and hopefully just take off."
More from morning skate: Forward Adam Erne, called up Sunday, will make his NHL debut against the Jets. Erne, who said he found out this morning when his number was on the board, said his parents, Tricia and Erik, along with his two siblings, will be at Amalie Arena for the special night. "It's exciting," he said... Boyle didn't skate again today, and coach Jon Cooper said he's not "incredibly comfortable" in saying the center will be ready by Thursday. .. G Andrei Vasilevskiy will start in net... C Cedric Paquette (lower body) skated for the first time in over a week today and was encouraged with how he felt. Paquette will miss his sixth straight game but is hopeful to return Thursday. The Lightning Triplets line is looking a lot like the dynamic force it had been in previous years after being reunited last week. "The first game was a little rusty at the beginning, but we've gotten better as we've gone along," Johnson said. "I love playing with those guys, they're amazing players and awesome people. We're just looking to continue to build. I thought we've been playing pretty well, had some chances. Now it's time to put more of those chances in." This will be the Lightning's first look at Jets star Patrik Laine, who has 19 goals in 39 games. Cooper saw him up close at the World Cup of Hockey, where Laine played for Finland. "I just remember the length of his stick and torque on his stick when he took a shot. It was lethal. He's obviously brought that to the NHL."