You have plenty of time to think when you're sidelined for months.
And Lightning veteran wing Ryan Callahan admitted he wondered if his lingering hip injury might be career-threatening.
"I think it's human nature for that to creep in your head when you're dealing with something for so long," Callahan told the Tampa Bay Times Sunday. "At the same time you hope the trainers and doctors will find out what's going on. And luckily, we did."
Callahan, 32, believes he is finally on his way back from a hip issue that derailed nearly his entire season. He skated Sunday for the first time in months, a 15-minute "twirl" with several injured teammates. While Callahan won't return in the final five games of the regular season, later in the playoffs is a possibility.
"If we go far enough, I definitely could go back and play," Callahan said.
More importantly, Callahan, who has three more years left on his contract, is confident the hip will not be a long-term issue. He said a follow-up procedure Feb. 22 on his right hip revealed why he continued to have discomfort even after his labrum was repaired last June. The issue was scar tissue, and a stitch that fallen off his labrum and onto his bone.
But now that it is fixed, Callahan said he can see the "light at the end of the tunnel." And Callahan thinks, at the very latest, he could be back to his old self for next season.
"100-percent," Callahan said. "I should have no lingering issues from this at all."
Callahan made his season debut Oct. 30 after June surgery, but was limited to just XX games (two goals, two assists). With the hip continuing to bother him, Callahan was sidelined Nov. 28-Jan. 3. Then, after coming back for three games, he was shut down again Jan. 8, the team hoping a month of strengthening the hip would bring him back after the mid-February bye week. Scans on the labrum were fine. That's what made it so puzzling.
"It's been the most frustrating year I've ever been a part of," Callahan said. "A couple times I felt like I've been back, ready to go, only to have a setback. It's been a tough year, no question, especially right now, the team fightning for a playoff spot. You want to be out there."
Callahan, an alternate captain, has been traveling with the team the past month, and will likely come on the final trip this week, to Boston, Toronto and Montreal. He said having good friend, captain Steven Stamkos (knee surgery), also rehabbing, has helped them both mentally support each other.
"There's a lot of things that go into your head when you're out this long," Callahan said. "Lot of frustrating days, lot of challenging days. And just to have another guy you can chat with that's going through the same thing, it eases your mind a little bit."