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Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Dana Tyrell works his way back from major knee injury

Dana Tyrell listens to directions at the Young Guns camp, his first action since a major knee injury.

DIRK SHADD | Times

Dana Tyrell listens to directions at the Young Guns camp, his first action since a major knee injury.

TAMPA — It really didn't matter, Dana Tyrell said, whom he was going to hit during a warmup game against Sweden before last winter's world junior championship.

What mattered was the outcome.

Tyrell, playing for Canada on a line next to John Tavares, who would be the No. 1 pick in the June draft, was on an early shift.

"So I really wanted to perform," Tyrell said. "I remember rushing for the puck at the blue line. It was a big collision."

Down went 6-foot-6, 220-pound Swedish defenseman Victor Hedman. Canada got the puck, and the 5-10, 185-pound Tyrell said the crowd at Toronto's Air Canada Centre "went nuts."

Two shifts later, the forward was out of the game, his season over because of a right knee injury sustained on what seemed like a nothing hit along the boards.

That is why the Lightning's Young Guns camp at the St. Pete Times Forum is so important.

"I've been waiting for this camp to happen for a long time," Tyrell said. "I haven't really been on skates and being too competitive since Christmastime, so this is a good test for my knee."

It held up fine during Saturday night's scrimmage as Tyrell, 20, drafted 47th overall in 2007, showed good speed and several times carried the puck to the net.

"He looks as strong as ever," said Lightning assistant Wes Walz, who is running the camp. "His skating doesn't look like it has missed a step. If anything, he looks a little bit quicker because he's fitter. If there is a silver lining to the situation, he's had a lot of time to train and get stronger. He's busted his butt real hard."

It has been quite a year for Tyrell, who in September played during training camp on a line with Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis and was captain of his junior Western Hockey League team in Prince George.

Making Canada's world junior team was another validation of his potential, and the hit on Hedman turned him into a favorite among teammates and fans.

Funny the way things work.

Tyrell and Hedman, drafted No. 2 in June, are now in the same organization and met on Wednesday as camp began.

"We talked about the hit," Tyrell said, "had a good laugh about it."

"All I remember is I saw stars," Hedman said. "I had to rest a shift. It was a good hit and clean."

Tyrell's other memorable moment was being on the ice for the postgame celebration in Ottawa after Canada beat Sweden for the gold medal.

"That was pretty special," Tyrell said, "really classy."

Really difficult was after the surgery that repaired his torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments.

"It definitely took away from my lifestyle," Tyrell said. "I'm used to working out and skating every day."

He has four more days of it at camp and more coming next season, likely at AHL Norfolk.

"I'm just looking forward to getting the season going," he said, "and playing some games."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Dana Tyrell works his way back from major knee injury 07/11/09 [Last modified: Sunday, July 12, 2009 12:48am]
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