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Callahan returns for Lightning against Capitals

by Corey Long / NHL.com

CAPITALS (4-3-2) at LIGHTNING (7-3-1)

TV: FX-CA, CSN-DC PLUS, SUN

TAMPA -- Forward Ryan Callahan will return to the lineup Saturday for the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Washington Capitals after missing the past five games with a lower-body injury.

Callahan will move back onto the top line with Steven Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula.

"Everything's good,” Callahan said. “I've got the green light to go [Saturday]. It's good to be back on the ice and we've got a tough game [Saturday]. I'm going to try get in front of the net and create a little havoc."

The Lightning are dealing with several injuries that occurred during their recent five-game road trip, but forwards J.T. Brown, Alex Killorn and now Callahan have been able to return to the lineup during this four-game homestand.

"It was a pretty tough road trip because it seemed like we were losing guys every game," Callahan said. "But the biggest thing is we were winning games while guys were out and in this League that's what you have to do. It shows how much depth there is on this team."

Callahan's return adds to the spice of an early season showdown between two of the top players in the NHL, Stamkos and Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin.

"There's always a bit of extra excitement for the fans with matchups like these between those two guys," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "You know something amazing can happen at any second. As a coach you know when someone like Ovechkin is on a shift that you can't make any mistakes because they will make you pay."

Cooper said that the Lightning must be cautious of the entire Capitals team because they can attack with all four lines.

"I think everybody struggles with Washington because they have great offensive talent and they have upgraded their defense with guys like [Brooks] Orpik and [Matt] Niskanen," Cooper said. "They are a pretty exciting team to watch and I think we're a pretty exciting team to watch so this should be a good game."

Washington coach Barry Trotz spent time with Stamkos when Trotz was an assistant for Canada at the 2009 IIHF World Championship. Trotz said it was clear from the beginning that the 24-year-old Lightning captain would be a star.

"He's obviously talented, his skill set is off the charts, and you can see the hard work that he does off the ice has been beneficial to him on the ice." Trotz said. "But he's also got a great personality. He's very upbeat and has shown those leadership skills with his organization. He's one of those guys that will keep the fans on the edge of their seats."

Trotz didn't want to get into too many comparisons between Ovechkin and Stamkos and said that any franchise would be happy to have either of them.

"I can't [compare] because they both are worth the price of admission," Trotz said. "Alex is a bull; he's 230 pounds of power and strength and skill. We need him to be everything that he is, much like the Lightning needs that out of Stamkos. They are both the faces of their franchises."

Ovechkin said he's seen Stamkos grow into one of the most versatile and well-rounded hockey players in the NHL.

"He's developed into one of the best we'll see," Ovechkin said. "He's very exciting to watch. He always wants the puck; he always wants to take the big shot. He does a lot of things well."

Here are the projected lineups:

CAPITALS

Alex Ovechkin - Andre Burakovsky - Joel Ward

Marcus Johansson - Nicklas Backstrom - Troy Brouwer

Jason Chimera - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Eric Fehr

Jay Beagle - Michael Latta - Tom Wilson

Brooks Orpik - John Carlson

Karl Alzner - Matt Niskanen

Nate Schmidt - Mike Green

Braden Holtby

Justin Peters

Scratched: Liam O'Brien, Jack Hillen

Injured: Brooks Laich (upper body), Aaron Volpatti (upper body), Dmitry Orlov (wrist), John Erskine (neck surgery)

LIGHTNING

Valtteri Filppula - Steven Stamkos - Ryan Callahan

Ondrej Palat - Tyler Johnson - Nikita Kucherov

Jonathan Drouin - Vladislav Namestnikov - Alex Killorn

Brenden Morrow - Brian Boyle - J.T. Brown

Matthew Carle - Anton Stralman

Mark Barberio - Eric Brewer

Jason Garrison - Radko Gudas

Ben Bishop

Evgeni Nabokov

Injured: Victor Hedman (hand), Brett Connolly (lower body), Andrej Sustr (hand)

Status report: To make room for Callahan’s return the Lightning reassigned Cedric Paquette to the American Hockey League. … Sustr took a shot off his hand Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers but says he should be able to return to the lineup next Thursday against the Calgary Flames.

Who's hot: Stamkos scored two goals in a 4-3 win against the Flyers. … Filppula had three assists Thursday and is second on the Lightning with 10 points. … Brouwer and Kuznetsov scored goals in a 4-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.

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