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Tampa Bay Lightning's tenacious fourth line gets high praise from coach Guy Boucher

TAMPA — This is a story about three players you probably have not heard much about.

They are on the Lightning's so-called fourth line. It is not a glamorous assignment. They don't play the minutes of a top line, and because they aren't necessarily expected to score, they don't get much publicity.

But center Nate Thompson and wings Adam Hall and Dana Tyrell, with a nonstop, in-your-face, forechecking, get-to-the-net style, are forcing you to notice.

They certainly have the attention of coach Guy Boucher, who gave them his DNA Award after they stifled the Stars' top line in Monday's 5-4 victory.

"These guys help carry the culture of the team," Boucher said. "They represent a lot of things we want to do.

"They're three guys who can crash and drive the net hard, and if you look at the video after the whistle, they're all three in the crease. Nobody pushed them to be there. They want to be there. They're in synch, and that's why they work so well."

The three players cut different figures.

Hall, 30, is 6 feet 3, 213 pounds. Thompson, 26, is 6 feet, 210. Tyrell, 21, a rookie, is 5-11, 185.

And they have different strengths. Hall is a defensive specialist. Thompson is best on faceoffs, and Tyrell, as Thompson said, "is a fast and strong little guy."

"But he plays bigger than his size," Hall said. "He's always first on pucks. He's right in the middle of all the scrums in front of the net."

They skate about the same speed, something Boucher said he looks for when putting lines together so players can attack or defend without stragglers: "They are just so reliable together. If we lose the puck, they're right there with the defense, and if the other team loses the puck, they're right there first on it. So, if it's not one, it's the other, and if it's not the other, it's the other one."

"We feed off that," Thompson said. "We want more and more every shift. We talk to each other. We help each other, and it works. Hopefully we can keep that chemistry the whole year and chip in a few goals."

Those are yet to come, and only Hall has an assist. But the line played about 14 minutes against the Stars, which helped take some of the wear and tear off the top lines, which Boucher wants to play 16-18 minutes.

Besides, scoring was not the line's priority. Holding the Stars' top line to four shots and zero even-strength goals while producing seven shots of its own and creating a ferocious forecheck from the opening shift were much more important.

Thus, the DNA Award, a cape with the letters DNA written on it, given by Boucher after a win to the player or players who best exemplify the building blocks, the DNA, of the team.

Boucher, too, said he will keep the line intact for tonight's game with the Islanders at the St. Pete Times Forum.

"I've tried to find some other ways to have my lines," said the coach, who scratched Tyrell twice and tried Mattias Ritola in his spot, "but every time they play together, they click."

"You look for chemistry, and we got it with those three guys. So, it's no denying it, no trying to break it, we're going to use it."

tonight

Lightning

vs. Islanders

When/where: 7:30; St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa

TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM

Key stats: The Lightning is unbeaten in 10 straight at home against the Islanders (8-0-2). … Tampa Bay LW Simon Gagne has zero points and is minus-7. … RW Ryan Malone entered Wednesday tied for the league lead with four power-play assists.

Tampa Bay Lightning's tenacious fourth line gets high praise from coach Guy Boucher 10/20/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 21, 2010 7:51am]
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