Tampa Bay Lightning F Ryan Callahan Could Return Tonight At MSG

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

There is a chance Tampa Bay Lightning alternate captain Ryan Callahan could make his 2016-17 season debut tonight at Madison Square Garden.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have always had a love/hate relationship with the injury bug. While the Lightning and their fans hate losing players, the injury bug loves to come around at the most inopportune times. You know…like the start of the season.

Back on June 21st, the Tampa Bay Lightning announced that alternate captain Ryan Callahan would have to undergo surgery to repair a labral tear in his right hip. This surgery would force Callahan to miss around five months away from the ice. In other words, Callahan would miss at least the first month of the season.

Now, the first month of the season has all but come and gone and the eyes of the Bolts Nation have quickly zoomed in on Callahan for any information as to when he could potentially make his return to the ice. Well, a couple of things have fallen into place that suggests he could potentially make his return tonight at Madison Square Garden against the New York Rangers.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning /

Tampa Bay Lightning

The first thing that points us in this direction is a statement made by Callahan yesterday. According to Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times, Ryan Callahan said he is “pretty much back to normal now.” While this is certainly not a confirmation, it is definitely a step in the right direction.

The next thing that brings us to this conclusion is the fact that earlier today, the Tampa Bay Lightning reassigned forward Cory Conacher to the Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch. As many already know, Conacher was called up to the Lightning’s main roster after Nikita Kucherov sustained an Upper-Body Injury after a nasty collision with the boards on Thursday night against the Montreal Canadiens.

Reassigning Conacher to the Crunch leaves a hole in the roster, and without another call-up, it would lead fans to believe that either Nikita Kucherov or Ryan Callahan were ready to make their return to the ice. Given the lack of information on Kucherov’ status, we would tend to believe the Callahan angle a little more.

Also, there is the pure and simple fact the Tampa Bay Lightning are heading into Madison Square Garden in the Big Apple to take on the New York Rangers. The Rangers not only gave Ryan Callahan his start in the National Hockey League, but they are the team he dedicated eight seasons to before being traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Three of those seasons were as the Rangers’ captain.

Now, there is also the chance that we are completely off base with this one. No one in the Tampa Bay Lightning organization has confirmed or denied a return for Ryan Callahan tonight in New York. At this point, you can take all of this with a grain of salt.

As Christine Gunn over at Lightning Shout points out, Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper could elect to go with seven defensemen until the team returns to the Amalie Arena on November 3rd to take on the Boston Bruins, meaning there is no roster spot to fill after all.

It could mean we see defenseman Matt Taormina mix in to the lineup, who was recalled by the Tampa Bay Lightning on October 20th as they reassigned defenseman Slater Koekkoek to the Syracuse Crunch in order to get him some more time on the ice.

No matter how things shake out tonight at MSG, it will be interesting to see how Cooper decides to mix things up and what the lines look at as they take the ice. After suffering two straight road losses, you can bet the Lightning will be looking for a little redemption tonight at MSG.

Next: Lightning Suffer 2nd Straight Road Loss In New Jersey

The action is set to kick off at 7:00 p.m. tonight from Madison Square Garden. As always, you can catch the game on Fox Sports Sun here in Tampa Bay. If you need to catch the game on the go, you can always watch the Lightning on the Fox Sports Go app, which is available in both the iTunes App Store and the Google Play Store.