Captain Steven Stamkos wasn't the only key Lightning player to make a triumphant return Friday night against Nashville.
Veteran wing Ryan Callahan, 32, played in his first game since Jan. 7, his season ending with a February follow-up procedure on his right hip. Callahan was a bit nervous before the game.
"I was riding the bike before the game and I'm like, 'I haven't had this feeling in a while for a preseason game," Callahan said.
But Callahan was encouraged with how he felt after playing eight minutes, 25 seconds. He looked like his old self, delivering two hits, blocking two shots as a key cog on the penalty kill.
"I felt good," Callahan said. "I felt like I missed nine months the first period or so. It's just timing, getting your legs. But once I got going, I got more comfortable."
When Callahan was trying to play through the hip injury last season, coach Jon Cooper would remember the wing getting fatigued often. Not so much Friday. "He had jump, he had energy," Cooper said.
Callahan said he felt like he could play his physical, gritty game with no limitations. That hadn't happened since he had a labral tear surgically-repaired in June of 2016.
"I didn't think about my hip or anything when I was out there," Callahan said. "It's a big thing for me to get the first game out of my system, blocking shots, taking some hits, giving some hits. It's a good step."