Dana Tyrell admitted that since returning to Tampa Bay two weeks ago, “things have been kind of crazy.”
Don’t be quick to misinterpret the 22-year-old just yet, though. Truth be told, he’s loved every minute of it.
Tyrell, known around the Lightning locker room as “the bulldog,” has brought some bite back with him from Norfolk of the AHL, where he appeared in all 18 games with the Admirals, recording four goals, nine points and a plus-three rating.
He was recalled to Tampa Bay on Nov. 25 in what seemingly looked like a minor move, but nonetheless one that has paid early dividends for the Bolts in just a brief amount of time.
With two assists in five games since returning from Tampa Bay’s top affiliate, the Lightning forward is not exactly pushing towards the top of the list of the NHL’s scoring leaders. Rather, what Tyrell brings to the table is a hard-working, tenacious attitude that is contagious among teammates and the coaching staff, earning him his appropriate nickname. By all accounts, he has proved to be just the right addition to a team in need of a spark as the Bolts head into Monday’s game at Ottawa on a three-game losing streak.
“I think from last year there were certain things that we liked and that we wanted to see again,” head coach Guy Boucher told The Tampa Tribune. “Just one guy can bring us closer to what we want to look like, and if one more guy looks like that, then we are that much closer. It has an incredible impact, especially in this league.”
Tyrell, who signed a two-year, one-way extension with the Bolts exactly one week ago, quietly goes about his business to help the team in any way he can. Despite missing each of the big club’s first 20 games to open the regular schedule, the transition back to the NHL has been seamless as a result of the exposure he received last season in his first full NHL campaign.
In a weekend sweep of Florida in the days following the Thanksgiving holiday, Tyrell jumped right in to reunite the “DNA” line that also comprises forwards Nate Thompson and Adam Hall. One of the more successful pairings throughout all of the 2010-11 season, it looked as if the group had never been split up at all, as it played a responsible game defensively and also led an aggressive forecheck that focused on puck pursuit and applying pressure deep in the Panthers’ zone.
“From last season each of us knew that we had a lot of chemistry and that we work well together,” Tyrell said. “I think people see that, but it definitely makes it more fun to play with them. They welcomed me back right when I got here and it was like I never left. It felt we were starting right where we left off.”
Fact is, though, Tyrell did leave as the last cut out of training camp, but mainly because he did not need to clear waivers. Boucher, as well as General Manager Steve Yzerman, wanted to get a fair look at other young players competing for jobs such as Blair Jones and Brett Connolly.
Tyrell, knowing that the organization supported him and that the decision to send him to Norfolk had nothing to do with his play, took the news in stride.
“Basically Steve Yzerman talked to me and said that I was going to be assigned to Norfolk to start the season, but he told me not to get down on myself at all,” Tyrell added. “It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I went down there and made the best of it, enjoyed it, and worked on the things I felt I needed to improve to get back up to the NHL. I played a lot of minutes and in a lot of different situations, so it turned out to be a really good experience for me.”
Equally as good was how the news of Tyrell’s return went over with Boucher, who felt the forward’s presence could provide consistency as well as some other valuable qualities that could help the team improve.
“He brought us relentless reliability,” Boucher told The St. Petersburg Times. “We didn’t bring him up here to sit. He played great in the American League and he did what he's been doing since he's been with this organization. He drives with incredible speed, he pays the price and he's reliable defensively. I would take that any time.”