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  • Mike Moore | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Artur Tyanulin, shooting the puck at Memorial Coliseum, has rekindled his game after coach Gary Graham said he was putting too much pressure on himself.

  • Rachel Von | The Journal Gazette Komets forward Artur Tyanulin is on the ice after getting cross-checked by a Quad City Mallards player at Memorial Coliseum. Tyanulin uses his speed to score and draw penalties on opposing teams. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018 1:00 am

Tyanulin relaxes, excels

K's rookie has had to deal with trips to AHL and back

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

Komets

at Wichita

When: 8 p.m. today

Where: INTRUST Bank Arena, Wichita, Kan.

at Kansas City

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Silverstein Eye Centers Arena, Independence, Mo.

at Quad City

When: 5 p.m. Sunday

Where: TaxSlayer Center,Moline, Ill.

Radio: 1190 AM, 107.5 FM

For two months, Komets forward Artur Tyanulin tore through the ECHL and thought keeping up that production would be a little easier than it has actually proved to be.

“I'm young and sometimes that did go through my mind,” said Tyanulin, a rookie prospect of the NHL's Arizona Coyotes, who turned 21 on Jan. 20, five days after he was the Komets' representative in the ECHL's All-Star Classic.

Tyanulin had earned an All-Star nod by tallying at least one point in 14 of his first 17 games in the ECHL, totaling 10 goals and 23 points.

But something changed between Jan. 6 and Jan. 20 – he didn't score a goal, didn't get an assist, had a minus-2 rating and wasn't as involved defensively as he had been.

What may have started as Tyanulin thinking it would be easy turned into him putting too much pressure on himself, Fort Wayne coach Gary Graham said, but Tyanulin has clearly snapped out of that with points in seven of the last eight games.

He is coming off his most impressive game of the season, a 3-2 victory Sunday over the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in which he tied the game in the second period by slamming in a Garrett Thompson centering passing; scored the overtime winner by going the length of the ice, slithering through a multitude of defenders and faking into a backhand shot that he put just underneath the crossbar; and using his 5-foot-10, 174-pound frame to bruise opponents into the boards.

“Yeah, I had been having problems (with my game) for a couple weeks. I'd had a lot of travel and I wasn't in good enough shape,” said Tyanulin, who has had to deal with the rigors of going to and from Tucson of the higher-level American Hockey League, where he has one assist in eight games. “The guys have supported me off the ice, and they give me support on the ice. And I'm going to play for this team as hard as I can.”

Tyanulin now has 16 goals, 33 points and a plus-17 rating in 30 ECHL games. About the only thing Tyanulin did wrong Sunday was take a boarding penalty late in the third period that the Komets had to kill off to force overtime.

“You always say your best penalty killer has sometimes got to be your goalie,” Graham said. “They're going to get some looks. I thought (goaltender Michael Houser) was out and was aggressive and was tracking the puck on that last PK and that was good.”

Houser, whose locker is next to Tyanulin's, is one of the veterans that the rookie is quick to thank these days for taking him under his wing. Others are ECHL leading scorer Shawn Szydlowski, Trevor Cheek and Zac Larraza. All three know what it's like to deal with the physical and mental toll of being called up to the AHL and sent back down.

“I have older teammates who have played a lot of games in the pros,” Tyanulin said. “I have guys like Michael Houser, who have been around, and they're giving me advice on how to handle things off the ice and on the ice. I have a lot of good guys around me and they're helping me.”

The Komets (37-13-3), who have won 16 of their last 18 games and are one point back of Central Division-leading Toledo, face the Wichita Thunder (29-21-6) at 8 pm. today in Wichita, Kansas, before playing Friday and Saturday at Independence, Missouri.

On Monday, the Komets signed defenseman Brandon Lubin, 26, who had played 37 games this season with Evansville of the Single-A Southern Professional Hockey League, totaling four goals, 10 points and 45 penalty minutes. He's got one game of ECHL experience with Utah.

“We've got some depth and we're getting guys in and out of the lineup,” Graham said. “We're going to need it down the stretch. We've talked about taking care of the month of February and we've got one more game left. This is a month where we want to bank as many points as we can because we're going to get a big-time challenge in March with a heavy workload and a challenging schedule against opponents who are mostly over .500 in the win column.”

jcohn@jg.net