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Tracking the Storm

Tlusty Bookends Career Season with International Play

Friday, 05.17.2013 / 12:30 PM / Tracking the Storm
By Michael Smith
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Tlusty Bookends Career Season with International Play
Jiri Tlusty’s season began in Kladno, Czech Republic, and ended in Helsinki, Finland.

Michael Smith
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Everything in between – the 24 games played in the Czech elite league with a childhood idol; the 48 games played with Carolina in which he scored at a blistering pace and cemented his role as a top-six forward; and the eight games played with the Czech national team in the World Championship – made for a career season.

The conclusion of the Hurricanes shortened season was especially bittersweet for the sixth-year forward. In just 48 games, Tlusty established career highs in goals (23) and points (38), but the team failed to qualify for the postseason for the fourth straight year.

“It’s hard to see everyone packing up their stuff and leaving, but it was definitely a good year for myself,” Tlusty said in an exit interview. “We’ve got a good core and a big future.”

Tlusty, 25, figures to be a key part of that future. If 2011-12 was a breakout year for the former 13th overall draft pick, this season was an affirmation of his offensive talents. Tlusty’s 23 goals ranked first on the team and fifth in the NHL, marking only the second time since 1997 that a Hurricanes player has finished in the top five in the league in goals.

Tlusty led the Canes with nine multi-goal games, and he earned his first-career hat trick on April 2 against Washington. He ranked second on the team with three game-winning goals and paced the team and the league with four empty-net goals. The Slany, Czech Republic, native finished the season riding an eight-game point streak (6g, 5a), and had it been a full 82-game season, he was on pace to score 39 goals and 64 points.

Asked if Tlusty could sustain that scoring clip, head coach Kirk Muller offered an assertive response.

“I do,” he said. “Even if the scoring isn’t there, his main role on the line was to be the safety valve and to play well two ways to give Eric (Staal) and Alex (Semin) the opportunity to play offensively. Jiri really maximized that opportunity and went out and produced offensively at a real solid rate.”

The Canes’ dominant first line of Tlusty, Staal and Semin combined for 135 points (54g, 81a) in 48 games and was a collective plus-34.

“Everyone was working, and that’s what was the key for the line,” Tlusty said. “We had some success, and hopefully we can keep it going next year.”

The biggest adjustment this season, Tlusty said, wasn’t finding chemistry with a new linemate in Semin, but rather getting accustomed to the smaller ice after playing on an international sheet for a few months.

During the work stoppage, Tlusty played with HC Kladno in his home country of the Czech Republic. The forward skated on a line with Tomas Plekanec and Jaromir Jagr and was routinely logging close to 25 minutes a game; Jagr, Tlusty said, would want to play the full two minutes on the power play, and Plekanec wanted to play the full two minutes on the penalty kill, so Tlusty would find himself on the ice in every situation.

In 24 games with Kladno, Tlusty posted 12 goals and 11 assists (23 points) and was a plus-17.

“It was fun. It gave me confidence,” he said. “It was a great experience playing at home with players like that. It’s just something else when you get to play with your heroes.”

International play provided a bookend to Tlusty’s career NHL season, as he jetted to Europe to play for the Czech national team in the IIHF World Championship, his first such experience.

“Wearing jerseys with the Carolina logo is really unique and really nice,” he said. “Having the Czech national logo is going to be really fun too. I’m definitely going to enjoy it and have fun representing my country. It’s pride.

“We were planning on playing in May anyway,” he added.

Tlusty posted four points (1g, 3a) in eight tournament games, and he averaged 14:05 of ice time per game. He netted his lone goal in the first period of a commanding 7-0 victory over Norway that clinched a quarterfinal berth for the Czech Republic. The undefeated Switzerland squad edged the Czechs 2-1 in the quarterfinals, bringing an end to Tlusty’s season.

Team disappointment aside, Tlusty enjoyed tremendous success in 2012-13, both stateside and abroad, and there is reason to believe that will continue.

“If I put the effort in, the results will come,” Tlusty said. “Everyone is going to be excited about next season.”

“He’s a smart hockey player, and he’s at a perfect time of his career where he’s gone through the tough stuff and he appreciates the opportunity. He’s a real pro. He prepares himself mentally and physically for every game,” Muller said. “He was probably one of our most consistent players this year.”



SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 48 30 14 4 156 127 64
2 NYI 46 31 14 1 151 129 63
3 DET 47 27 11 9 139 119 63
4 MTL 45 29 13 3 123 106 61
5 PIT 46 26 12 8 138 117 60
6 NYR 44 27 13 4 134 106 58
7 WSH 46 24 13 9 137 120 57
8 BOS 48 25 16 7 126 121 57
9 FLA 44 20 14 10 107 122 50
10 OTT 46 19 18 9 126 128 47
11 TOR 48 22 23 3 142 150 47
12 PHI 48 19 22 7 130 146 45
13 CBJ 45 20 22 3 113 142 43
14 NJD 47 17 22 8 107 134 42
15 CAR 46 16 25 5 98 120 37
16 BUF 47 14 30 3 89 167 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
E. Staal 41 15 13 -8 28
J. Faulk 46 8 18 -14 26
J. Skinner 41 10 9 -7 19
E. Lindholm 46 9 10 -10 19
R. Nash 46 7 12 -4 19
J. Tlusty 39 11 7 -12 18
N. Gerbe 42 4 13 -2 17
V. Rask 46 6 9 -9 15
A. Sekera 44 1 14 -8 15
C. Terry 33 6 3 -3 9
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Khudobin 5 8 2 .916 2.32
C. Ward 11 17 3 .911 2.45