Will Gourde’s suspension serve as opportunity for Callahan?

Yanni Gourde was handed a two-game suspension for his hit on Jordan Staal in the Lightning’s Thursday night 6-3 win over the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Department of Player Safety ruled that Gourde’s hit did not meet the criteria of “unavoidable head contact.”

The NHL’s player safety decision video stated that Gourde “must take an angle of approach that hits through Staal’s near-shoulder and core rather than one that hits through his head.”

Unless Gourde elects to appeal the decision, he will miss the next two games against the St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins, not playing until the Bolts’ regular season “Game 3” against the Washington Capitals next Saturday. While not ideal for the Lightning, Gourde’s absence could open the door for more potential playing time for the Bolts’ unofficial “13th forward,” Ryan Callahan.

On Thursday night, the night of his 34th birthday, Callahan made his first appearance in the lineup after being scratched for the last five games. He certainly made the most of it by netting the game-winning goal off a feed from the blueline by Victor Hedman. It was just Callahan’s seventh goal in his 47th game on the season.

Callahan certainly enjoyed netting that goal, as you can tell from the excitement on his face after realizing the puck went in.

Adam Erne was scratched for Thursday night’s game to make room for Callahan. While Erne has appeared to earn a more consistent spot on the Bolts’ fourth line recently, could Callahan’s goal, coupled with Gourde’s two-game suspension serve as the “perfect storm” for Callahan to try and play his way into the Bolts’ starting 12? Maybe, maybe not.

It will be nice to see Callahan likely in the lineup for the next two games, but it may be the most we see of him for the remainder of this season.

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