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Kucherov, Callahan return to Lightning lineup

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrates his goal beating Edmonton Oilers defenseman goalie Anders Nilsson (39) to take the lead 2 to 1 during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday evening (01/19/16).

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Nikita Kucherov (86) celebrates his goal beating Edmonton Oilers defenseman goalie Anders Nilsson (39) to take the lead 2 to 1 during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Tuesday evening (01/19/16).

TAMPA — The Lightning is finally getting back to full strength — at least up front — with the playoffs just more than a week away.

Wings Nikita Kucherov (lower body) and Ryan Callahan (lower body) returned to the lineup Thursday against the Canadiens. Kucherov had missed the past two games with a lower-body injury after getting struck in the left foot by a shot Friday. He rejoined C Steven Stamkos on the top line with LW Alex Killorn.

Callahan, who hadn't played since March 17 in Dallas, was on the third line with C Valtteri Filppula and Cedric Paquette. Vladislav Namestnikov moved down to the fourth line with Brian Boyle and J.T. Brown.

"We've got our lineup, and this is the lineup we're going to have moving forward," Stamkos said. "Hopefully we can continue to win games down the stretch."

PROUD PAPA: RW Erik Condra had a whirlwind night Monday. He had to rush home after the team's 3-0 win over the Maple Leafs to take his wife, Ryan, to the hospital for the birth of their second child, daughter Ellery Lou, who arrived at 3:21 a.m. Tuesday. "It was crazy," Condra said.

Condra said Ryan got a message to him during the game through Callahan's wife, Kyla. "After the game, (Callahan) told me, 'You might want to hurry home,' " Condra said. "I kind of bolted out of here."

Ellery was born on her due date at 7 pounds, 10 ounces, with Condra grateful the Lightning was on a two-week homestand so he could be there. The couple brought Ellery home Wednesday night. She joins their 11/2-year-old son, Callan.

IVY THINKING: Harvard wing Jimmy Vesey, college's top prospect, has been the talk of the hockey world this week for deciding to spurn the Predators, who drafted him in 2012, and become a free agent this summer.

Killorn, a Harvard alumnus, knows Vesey a little and had planned to send him a text message offering advice.

"It's one of those things where he's in a unique situation where not a lot of guys get to pick your own fate," Killorn said. "We'll see if that turns out to be the right decision. He's a great player, and he'll be fine."

Vesey, picked 66th overall, could have joined the Predators for their playoff run but instead will be a free agent. Killorn, selected 77th overall in 2007, had the same option but decided to sign with the Lightning right after his senior season.

"I don't think I had as much eyes on me as (Vesey) did," Killorn said. "Through Tampa, I was in a situation where I wanted to be in. If I was a free agent, I probably would have signed here anyway, so it just worked out.

"For him, he would have had a chance to play in Nashville in the playoffs, a pretty cool experience. But it's also a lot to take in as a first-year guy jumping right into the playoffs."

Maybe Killorn will try to recruit Vesey to the Lightning this summer.

LINING UP: Coach Jon Cooper said LW Ondrej Palat and C Tyler Johnson have "elevated their game" since RW Jonathan Marchessault joined their line. … Condra, RW Mike Blunden and D Nikita Nesterov were healthy scratches.

Kucherov, Callahan return to Lightning lineup 03/31/16 [Last modified: Thursday, March 31, 2016 10:18pm]
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