Carlo cranks it up

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

There is still a lot of "O" left inside Carlo Colaiacovo.

Yes, the Maple Leafs would like to see him tighten up his defence.

Yes, he understands that he must be responsible in his own end of the ice if he hopes to snatch a spot on the blue line of the NHL club.

But the young defenceman yesterday served up a reminder to those in attendance at the Ricoh Coliseum of just how much of a talent he can be in the offensive zone.

With his squad down 2-1 to Team Sundin and the goalie on the bench in favour of a sixth attacker, Colaiacovo rocketed up from his defensive position to join one final rush, resulting in his tying goal.

Team Sundin would go on to post a 4-2 shootout victory over Colaiacovo's Team Lindros in a morning scrimmage, but the score was overshadowed by his heroics.

"What I've tried to concentrate on is defence first," said Colaiacovo, the Leafs first-round pick in 2001. "But in this case, we're down by a goal, and I just saw the opportunity to jump into the rush.

"Any time if there's the chance like that, I'm going to take advantage. I jumped up, drove the net hard, got a break and it went in the net.

" I finally hit that stage of life where I'm growing into my body. I'm stronger and more mature now."

Having bulked up by 20 pounds since joining the Leafs organization, Colaiacovo, 22, credits Matt Nichol, the team's conditioning guru, for helping him gain upper-body strength.

Coach Pat Quinn welcomes the additional muscle being sported by Colaiacovo, who is intent on snapping up a spot on the blue line along with Bryan McCabe, Tomas Kaberle, Aki Berg, Ken Klee and Alexander Khavanov.

"He is becoming a man, but there are still a couple of things ahead of him," Quinn said. "For one, staying healthy. But he has worked hard on his conditioning. Now he has strengthened up, he has worked hard at it, and it's going to help."


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