Hurricanes forward Jiri Tlusty focused on being faster, stronger

RALEIGH, N.C. – The 2013-2014 NHL season didn’t play out the way Carolina Hurricanes forward Jiri Tlusty had anticipated when he came back before training camp back then.

He came off a career year during the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season posting 38 points (23g, 15a) in all 48 games played.

He expected to do the same last year.

However, the injury bug bit him and eventually kept him from maintaining the same level of production.

It was a season during which he truly realized how much more prepared his body would have to be to endure the rigors of playing in the league and being offensively productive in it.

He made adjustments while preparing for training camp this September.

“I changed it up a little bit since last year,” Tlusty said following an informal skating session last Friday.

“We tried different stuff last offseason and it kind of didn’t work, so we changed it up again this summer. I feel good right now and hopefully I’ll be feeling even better every single day.”

The focus last offseason was more on endurance while this year’s training regimen has included more high-intensity and high-tempo speed and strength training for power.

Possessing the ability to play an effective two-way game, be it forechecking or working to get to the net to pass or score, Tlusty’s style of play has opposing defenders knowing to get a body on him.

He also threw his body around a lot while working to get the puck, but it seemed that a few of those collisions denied him the opportunity to do as much offensively.

Why the change in training style?

Well, the combination of injuries and less offensive production seemed to make the point clear to him that trying something different was necessary.

Though not injured severely enough to sit out early in the season, a hit that caught him by surprise during a training camp scrimmage last September seemed to have impacted his lack of scoring punch early on.

He didn’t score his first goal until the team’s ninth game of the season when he scored twice against the New York Islanders.

The first half of the year continued like that – scoring intermittently – taking seven, 10, and seven games again in between each of his next goals on the season.

Then just days after scoring two goals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, during the Christmas holiday break, he underwent an emergency appendectomy.

Obviously suffering a ruptured appendix is not something anyone could predict would happen, but Tlusty seemed to come out of the surgery fine, but needed time to heal accordingly.

Thus, he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 27 and wasn’t reactivated until Jan. 13.

When he came back, the gap in between goal production was less and he seemed to be working better around the net.

However, injuries would still eventually have him sitting six more games during March and April.

In total, he missed 14 games sitting on IR and that included a shoulder injury late in the season that he played through.

His body had definitely taken its share of impact, but he didn’t shy away from taking or dishing out contact as he ended up third on the team in total hits (88).

Even while sitting out with the shoulder injury for four games as the season neared an end, he actually played his best hockey of the year at the time.

He finished with eight points (4g, 4a) in his last eight games played, and that included finishing on a three-game point streak (2g, 2a).

Even with that late burst, Tlusty’s 30 points (16g, 14a) in 68 games didn’t fare well compared to the previous year.

Less point production in more games played didn’t provide management the confidence it had in him a year earlier.

Thus, they signed him to just a one-year deal.

The message was clear that he had work to do, but finishing second on the team in game-winning goals and showing a late-season scoring burst obviously helped show that the Hurricanes could still believe in the Czech forward’s abilities.

Tlusty understood that he would have to prepare differently.

Returning to Kladno, Czech Republic, he didn’t mince words when he said the offseason seemed like an eternity after the team missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

“Summer was definitely long and we had a lot of time to train and we got ourselves ready for the season,” Tlusty said.

“We worked more on quickness with a lot more running with shorter, more intense sprint work. We were running a lot this Spring and Summer. That’s the big key. Hopefully, I’ll be quicker than I was last year.”

Though he trained hard, Tlusty gave himself appropriate time to rest and recover from his injuries.

“At the start of the summer, I took it a little slower because my shoulder had to get rest and get it healed,” Tlusty said.

“I kind of went away and trained the whole summer with no problems. That was a great sign and now I’m ready to be over here and I feel great. Just trying to put in the work ethic in every day and practice and work out and put myself in the best shape that I can.”

Heading into his eighth season and sixth with the Hurricanes, Tlusty speaks as the veteran he is.

He’s experienced the highs and lows, and understands his potential and the opportunity he has to hit the upslope of it, if all things go right.

His past production came from maintaining proper health and fitness, and those will be the keys to his success.

That’s why he made changes this offseason, working to be faster and stronger – more explosive and resilient.

“More speed and get stronger overall – from the core to lower (body) – just get stronger,” he concluded.

“You know what? The NHL, it’s tough. You have to be ready for it every single night, so your body can’t give up one night and be ready for the next night. You have to be ready every single night and that’s why that was the focus, just to make sure I was ready to be strong enough for every single game.”