Last night, troubling news came out of Tampa Bay concerning first line winger Ryan Callahan. Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times describes the situation:
Callahan didn’t practice Monday, with the team saying he first felt abdominal pain during the afternoon. He was admitted to Tampa General Hospital, where he was diagnosed with acute appendicitis. Callahan was in the emergency room by 9 p.m. and out by 10 p.m., and in stable condition, team spokesman Bill Wickett said.
Although Callahan shares linemate Steven Stamkos’ lack of production, with only three points in 12 games and last putting up an assist on April 29 against Detroit, the rough-and-tumble forward was fourth in forwards on time on ice per game at 18:17. Even if it’s an outdated stat, Callahan also led the Bolts with a +7 rating.
So who will replace Callahan on the top line? While it looks like Jonathan Drouin will be a healthy scratch again, there are other options for Lightning head coach Jon Cooper.
Bring on the Black Aces
Currently practicing with the team are two “Black Aces”, Syracuse call-ups Mike Angelidis and Jonathan Marchessault. Angelidis last played for the Lightning this season during a three-game stint in March, the only three games he suited up for the big club. Marchessault has only played two games for the Lightning, in October and most recently on April 11.
Of the two possible replacements for Callahan, Marchessault seems like the likely choice.
Marchessault said Cooper told him to be ready to play, will take warmups and then be a game-time decision #tblightning
— Michelle Gingras (@michellegingras) May 12, 2015
The Cap-Rouge, Quebec-native center register a shot on goal and a hit on a rather quiet night in October versus the Wild, but made a much larger impact in the April 11 game versus the Boston Bruins, where Marchessault was named the first star of the night after registering a goal, three hits and 11:20 TOI. He opened up the scoring for the game following a lazy backcheck by Bruins’ Ryan Spooner and Matt Bartkowski, pouncing on the puck and scoring his first NHL goal.
Moving a Triplet Up?
Should Marchessault not make it through the warm-ups cut another option for coach Cooper is to move one of his mainstays to the top line.
As difficult as it is for Cooper to split up the Triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat, one of them might provide the spark needed to get the top line to beat Montreal goaltender Carey Price with, Johnson, leading the team with 12 points and a ridiculous 27.60 shooting percentage, as the most worthy candidate.
Another option would be to advance a fourth-liner who plays a similar style to Callahan, Brian Boyle. The bruising center has only two points in 12 games, but might be able to open up space for Stamkos and Valtteri Filppula with his punishing style of play.
Whatever Lightning head coach Jon Cooper decides, replacing a player like Callahan will be difficult. Fortunuately, Callahan might not be out for long, as hinted at earlier this morning.
Michelle Timian fell in love with hockey after watching a game between the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs in 2006 and has been following hockey ever since. She is a graduate of Western Illinois University with a degree in Creative Writing and is more comfortable in front of a keyboard than on skates. She also blogs for the New York Rangers at blueshirtsunited.com.