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Callahan expects to be 'full go' for Lightning training camp

Forward skates Monday after hip surgeries cost him most of 2016-17

by Corey Long / Correspondent

BRANDON, Fla. -- Ryan Callahan joined Tampa Bay Lightning teammates Nikita Kucherov, Braydon Coburn, Peter Budaj and Andrei Vasilevskiy on the ice Monday for the first day of voluntary workouts.

Callahan showed no ill effects from the two hip surgeries that forced him to miss 64 games last season as he participated in skating and agility drills for about an hour.

The 32-year-old forward said that he will not be limited in training camp, which begins in less than four weeks.

"I'm full go, right from Day One," Callahan said. "It's going to be nice to be able to do a hard training camp this year."

Callahan had surgery in June 2016 to repair a labral tear in his right hip. After returning for 18 games Oct. 30-Jan. 7, he had to have a second surgery in mid-February to repair a stitch that came out of his labrum and was pulling on his femur.

Callahan described the second surgery as more of a "clean up" and quickly noticed the difference in how much better he felt as he worked through rehab. He said he was cleared before he left Tampa in May and has turned all his frustration from 2016-17 into focus on the upcoming season.

"I had enough time to reflect on [frustrations] throughout the year, trust me, especially at the end of the year there when we're fighting for a playoff spot," Callahan said. "So I was excited when the summer started to be able to kind of forget about it totally and just be able focus on training to get ready for this year.

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"It goes without saying this is the most excited I've been in a long, long time going into a season after only playing 18 games last year and feeling the way I do now."

Callahan, who was acquired by the Lightning from the New York Rangers on March 5, 2014, in a trade that sent forward Martin St. Louis to New York, has 97 points (42 goals, 55 assists) in 188 regular-season games for the Lightning and four goals and eight assists in 45 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Heading into the fourth season of a six-year contract with an average annual value of $5.8 million, Callahan will be playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder in hopes of silencing those who believe his best hockey is behind him.

"I know there's chatter and people doubt me -- if I can come back and what I'll be like when I come back," Callahan said. "I've always tried to use it as motivation. That's how they propelled me to the place I am right now in my career. I'm looking at this the same way. I'm excited to get going this year. I think it's going to be one of the best years I've ever had."

Callahan's attitude is expected to rub off on the rest of the Lightning as they try to bounce back after missing the playoffs following runs to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 and the Eastern Conference Final in 2016.

"We have the talent in here, but now I think we have some of that hunger back," Callahan said. "Just talking to the guys in the room, we're all excited about what could be and to prove to everybody that last year was a fluke."

Callahan also is excited about the additions of defenseman Dan Girardi and forward Chris Kunitz. Girardi and Callahan played together for eight seasons with the Rangers. Callahan described Kunitz as a "great competitor" and someone he's looking forward to finally playing with rather than against.

"First off, with Girardi, I grew up with the guy. I played with him in juniors and lived with him and his wife in Hartford," Callahan said. "I know what he can bring on the ice and off the ice especially. He's a really good leader. He's had a lot of deep playoff runs. He's been in the League awhile [and] he's such a steady defenseman out there. I think that's going to be huge for us.

"And a guy like Kunitz, who has won four Stanley Cups. Me and him have had quite a few battles over the years dating from back when I played in New York to Tampa. He's knows how to win, and that's what we need."

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