But Lightning head coach Jon Cooper stopped short of ruling Callahan out completely.
Callahan had an emergency appendectomy Monday night at Tampa General Hospital. The right winger felt discomfort Monday afternoon and after consulting with the Lightning medical staff, was sent to Tampa General and went under the knife soon after.
Callahan was released from the hospital Tuesday morning.
“I think it’s something that’s, just because the way medical practices are today, it’s much easier to come back from than in the past, and we got to it, so you’ve got to give a lot of credit to our docs and stuff,” Cooper said at his post morning skate press conference Tuesday. “We got to it before anything really bad, the word rupture could have happened. Who knows? Stranger things have happened. How long is the game from now? He’s a pretty tough kid.”
Asked if he was suggesting Callahan could come back from surgery and play in Game 6 less than 24 hours later, Cooper responded, “Crazier things have happened.”
“We’ll see what happens. I have not talked to him since he has been released, so we’ll see how he’s feeling. Is he extremely doubtful for tonight? Sure he is, but I’ve done a little researching now on the whole subject, and I’ve read it’s taken people weeks and I’ve read it’s taken people a day to get back. So, I would say he falls somewhere in those parameters. Knowing how tough Callahan is I’ll put him closer to the days than the weeks.”
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said he spoke to Callahan before surgery, and he seems to be in good spirits.
“Every indication I’ve had is that everything went well,” Stamkos said. “This is a thing that guys can come back and sometimes play the next day or two days, three days, whatever. You want to obviously win and get a chance for guys in this room to get healthy, and that’s Cally included.”
Callahan has yet to score in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs but is tied for the team lead with Ondrej Palat for hits (42). Callahan is tied for fourth in the league with a plus-seven plus-minus rating during the playoffs. The Lightning are 24-3-0 when Callahan scores, dating back to last season when the Bolts acquired him from the New York Rangers at the trade deadline.
“He’s a leader on our team,” Cooper said. “He’s extremely important. He plays with passion, grit. He plays with all those things that help you win. He plays with such character. You win with guys like Ryan Callahan. That’s why he’s another one that’s played so many playoff games in his career because you win with guys like that.”
Stamkos said that while Callahan’s potential absence is significant, the Lightning should be able to handle the blow.
“We’ve got some guys that are capable of stepping up in these situations,” Stamkos said. “We’ve had lots of depth on our team all year, and someone’s going to get a chance.
“Hopefully, they can make the best of it.”
One of those players possibly getting an opportunity tonight is Jonathan Marchessault, who was one of 12 players to take the ice for the Lightning’s optional morning skate on Tuesday and was one of three black aces recalled on April 30.
Marchessault played in two games for the Lightning during the regular season and scored his first professional goal in the season finale on April 11 against the Boston Bruins.
Marchessault has four games total playing experience at the NHL level.
“I’m going to come ready to play,” Marchessault said. “I’m going to do warmups, and (Cooper’s) going to tell me after warmups whether I’m in or not.”
Marchessault said he and fellow black aces Mike Angelidis, Slater Koekkoek and Luke Witkowski have been pushing each other during practice sessions in case such an emergency situation should arise.
“If I get a chance to get in, I want to show what I can do,” Marchessault said. “I think I had a good, last game of the season. I had a good game here. So go on the same pattern, just be intense and be ready to play a playoff game here.”
If Marchessault were to enter the lineup, he would be making his playoff debut.
A NUMBERS GAME
Cooper was asked if he would go with 11 forwards and seven defensemen again for Game 6 with Callahan likely out. While not answering yes or no, Cooper did say it’s an alignment he’s fond of.
“We’ll see what we do tonight, but we’re extremely comfortable in that situation,” he said. “We’ve done it before. We did it last year. We’ve won three playoff games of the Detroit series doing it. I’ve said this all along. We’re going to put the 20 guys in the lineup that we feel is going to give us the best chance to win tonight.”
Cooper said there were a number of reasons to go 11 and seven.
“You can get better players on the ice more, you’re not sitting guys on the bench, putting a guy in the middle of the bench and saying, ‘You’re not playing for the longest time,’” he said. “It can take some minutes away from some of your defensemen. You can put situational defensemen in. You can get a little parade to the penalty box with defensemen. You’ve still got more guys back there. I could go on and on and on for the reasons.”
The Lightning have only gone 11 and seven once in the Second Round series against Montreal, that coming in a 2-1 loss in Game 5.
The Bolts were 3-for-3 with the alignment in the Detroit series.
“For me, I’m all about it in certain situations, and we’ve played well when we’ve gone with that lineup,” Cooper said.