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Tyrell Bounces Back

by Mark Pukalo / Tampa Bay Lightning
Dana Tyrell had the target in sight on his first shift of the game and it didn’t matter how much bigger the player was. He was going at him. Tyrell delivered a thunderous hit to a certain Swedish defenseman named Victor Hedman in an exhibition matchup before the World Junior Championships last December.

The Air Canada Centre crowd went nuts.

Tyrell, a wing, is a 5 foot 11, 180.

Hedman, his brand new teammate picked by the Lightning second overall in the NHL draft June 26, is 6-6, 220.

“I was playing on a first line with [John] Tavares and [Chris] DiDomenico and wanted to stay up there,” said Tyrell, drafted in the second round by the Lightning in 2007. “I had a lot of pressure
Dana Tyrell
and I wanted to really perform.

“Me and Victor were both rushing for the puck at the blue line and there was a big collision. I got winded out of that, too.”

He talked with Hedman about it Wednesday as the Lightning’s Young Guns prospects camp opened.

“We had a good laugh,” Tyrell said.

It was perhaps the best highlight in the buildup to the World Juniors for Team Canada.

“[Canada coach] Pat Quinn told me that’s why we won that game, that day,” Tyrell said. “That meant a lot to me.”

This is a big week for Tyrell, signed to a three-year entry-level contract by the Lightning a week before the game. He is very anxious for some hockey and, more importantly, ready to play. His participation in the prospect camp is the first high-level hockey he’s played since December 19.

A few shifts after his big hit on Hedman, Tyrell suffered a major knee injury that required surgery. He was out of the World Juniors before it started.

“I still couldn’t really say how it happened,” Tyrell said. “I went to hit somebody on the boards and the next thing I know I just felt some numbness on both sides of my knee.”

Tyrell, 20, said he didn’t feel much pain. But he could not put any weight on it.

Team Canada went on to win the World Juniors, beating Hedman’s Sweden in the final, with the help of Lightning prospect Dustin Tokarski in goal. Tyrell was flown to the final in Ottawa, watched from the press box and celebrated with his team on the ice -- a gold medal around his neck.

“That was pretty special and really classy of Hockey Canada,” Tyrell said. “It was awesome how they brought me back.”

Tyrell said he felt part of it. He can always say he played well enough to make Team Canada. The player who replaced him after he was injured was Evander Kane, who was picked two spots after Hedman in the recent draft.

Once Tyrell had surgery in late January, his goal was to be ready to play this week.

“It was tough for me,” Tyrell said. “It was all part of my daily routine, skating, working out. It was difficult not being able to do that. For a couple months, I just had to find another way to occupy myself.”

Tyrell caught up with friends and family, and continued to work out his upper body. He feels like he is stronger now. Some have said he looks faster. The main thing is, he has been skating for more than a month and there are no limits to what he can do. He has looked fluid in skating drills the first few days.

“[The injury] is not going to be even in my mind when I’m out there on the ice,” Tyrell said. “It’ll hold up strong. I’m just looking forward to see how I perform out here.”

Lightning Executive Vice President and GM Brian Lawton said the long-term goal is to get Tyrell back to his up-tempo, aggressive style that he plays so well, despite his relatively small frame.

“We don’t have any reasons to be concerned,” Lawton said. “But we have to give him enough time to fully heal.”

Tyrell is a native of Airdrie, Alberta, a suburb of Calgary. The house where he grew up had a lake nearby where he and his younger brother skated throughout the year. He also played lacrosse and tried other sports, but hockey became No. 1. He played his first game for the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League in the 2004-05 season.

Along with the ability to play on a high-energy or checking line, Tyrell has shown potential to be a top-six forward. Tyrell had 121 points in 140 games in 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons combined for Prince George. He had 19 goals and 21 assists in 30 games before the injury. Tyrell also played 11 games for the Norfolk Admirals in 2008 on a tryout contract, scoring a goal and assisting on five.

Now, he said he just wants to see where he fits in the organization.

“This is why I play hockey, to get a chance to play in an NHL game, play pro,” Tyrell said. “This is a big step for me.”

He is also glad to have Hedman as a teammate.

“I’m happy to get to know him here at camp,” Tyrell said. “He’s going to be a great player for the organization.”

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