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Lightning's Callahan feels better, wants to play better

by Brian Compton

TAMPA -- Hockey became secondary the night of May 11, when Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Ryan Callahan was sent to the hospital because of abdominal pain. An emergency appendectomy was required.

Three days later, Callahan was on the ice at practice. He's played all three games of the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers, a best-of-7 series the Lightning lead 2-1 following a 6-5 overtime win in Game 3 on Wednesday.

Game 4 is at Amalie Arena on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"I feel good," Callahan said after a brief skate Thursday. "It gets better each day. As of now I'm good. I'm ready."

Callahan has not scored in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs; he has three assists in 15 games. His last point came in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Detroit Red Wings, but led by the line of Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov, the Lightning have had enough offense.

"There's no question I have to contribute," said Callahan, who had 24 goals and 30 assists in 77 regular-season games. "I have to put goals in the net. I have to put points on the board. That's a department I need to improve on. But at the same time I can't solely get hung up on that. I'm successful when I'm banging, getting to the net, getting to the front of the net, getting to those dirty areas, and that's when I seem to score my goals. I have to be better in that area, no matter who's going or who's putting the puck in the net, and I realize that."

Though the news about Callahan's emergency appendectomy was stunning, it was no surprise to coach Jon Cooper how quickly Callahan was able to return and contribute, at least on defense.

"The one thing about Ryan Callahan for myself is he never disappoints," Cooper said. "He is the consummate professional. He wears his heart on his sleeve and it's really hard to keep that guy down. I'm sure he would probably get up here and say, 'Oh, I wish I had some more goals.' But he does so many other things aside from that.

"He was on the ice a lot against the [Derek] Stepan line a lot [in Game 3] and I thought [he] did a great job against them. And usually that's the kind of stuff that doesn't make the newspapers. But it makes the papers in our locker room. He's all about winning. It doesn't matter what cost or how it's going to happen; that's what he's about."

Callahan arrived in the NHL during the 2006-07 season and played for New York until he went to Tampa Bay at the NHL Trade Deadline last season when an agreement on a contract couldn't be reached. Tampa Bay has scored 12 goals in its past two games, but Callahan said he expects a stronger effort from his former team in Game 4.

"There's a lot of character in that room, a lot of experience," Callahan said of the Rangers. "[They reached] the Stanley Cup Final last year. We're expecting their best, and that's what we have to be prepared for."


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