Tlusty's talent exposed

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:35 AM ET

Jiri Tlusty is grateful for the way his teammates have watched his back, even when images of it and the rest of his body were on the Internet for all the world to see.

Almost three months after photos of Tlusty in his birthday suit were the talk of the town, his play on the ice is drawing the most attention, not his play on the Web.

And that's the way it should be, given the fact that he long ago apologized for the mistake. Teenagers, after all, are prone to making errors in judgement.

Tlusty has rebounded from that scandal to play some of his best hockey of his rookie season this week. Yes, lining up on Mats Sundin's wing will inflate anyone's stats, but that should not take away from the impression left by a kid who has scored in each of the past two games.

TEAM SUPPORT

Through it all, he has not forgotten the way Sundin and the rest of the Leafs have supported him through his struggles both off the ice and on.

"No matter what happened, they have stuck by me," Tlusty, 19, said. "Mats, Pavel Kubina, Tomas Kaberle, they were always there for me.

"The guys in this room have been unbelievable."

Made the 13th overall pick in the 2006 NHL entry draft by the Leafs, Tlusty has found completely different ways to hit the scoreboard of late.

His goal against the Carolina Hurricanes Thursday came when he ripped a missile that goalie Cam Ward still hasn't seen. Against the Ottawa Senators Saturday, he was very opportunistic, being in the right spot at the right time to scoop a loose puck at the feet of goalie Ray Emery across the goal line.

"It can be difficult when you are only playing a couple of minutes a game," said Tlusty, who has five goals and three assists in 30 games. "But you do whatever you can to help the team win. You sit on the bench and make sure you are ready for every shift.

"But now, playing 15 minutes and playing with Mats Sundin, its a great opportunity. It is a great chance for me.

"We are going to keep trying to make the playoffs, no matter what happens."


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