Bozak searching for answers

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:20 PM ET

After every Maple Leafs game, Tyler Bozak plops in front of his television, or the computer, and watches each of his shifts.

Lately, the Leafs centre has been viewing little more than a frustrating loop.

Pegged to be Phil Kessel’s set-up man coming out of training camp, Bozak not only was not up to that task, but has struggled all season, recording just 20 points (eight goals and 12 assists) in 59 games. For the past 13 games, there have been nothing but zeroes in every major offensive category.

“I’m trying to find out myself why it's not working this year like it was last year,” Bozak said. “It’s tougher to get points. I came in last year and no one really knew who I was. That said, I was playing with Phil last year and we usually had (to play against) the two best defencemen on any team.”

Of Bozak’s 12 assists in 2010-11, nine have come on goals by Kessel. The two have not played together in every game, but when they have, the thinking by Leafs brass was that they would have been a lot more explosive together.

The minus-22 that Bozak will lug into the Leafs’ home game versus the New York Islanders on Tuesday night is tied for the worst among National Hockey League forwards with Simon Gagne of the Tampa Bay Lightning. And Bozak is part of a Leafs penalty-killing unit that is 27th in the NHL.

There are not many certainties one can make about the Leafs team that will play in 2011-12, yet one would be that not nearly as much will be put on Bozak’s shoulders.

Bozak looked sharp as a rookie a year ago, recording 27 points (eight goals and 19 assists) in 37 games. In the eyes of assistant coach Tim Hunter, however, that Bozak has been in a rut in his second NHL season is not something that should cause to much concern.

“You saw Luke (Schenn) struggle last year at times (in his second season) and it was not unlike what Tyler is going through,” Hunter said. “We have to keep sticking with him and showing the confidence that he is able to get the job done. It’s his second year, a long year, and he has been playing a lot. Maybe he is getting a little bit tired, but I think he is capable.”


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