Tyler Bozak putting together surprising season on Leafs' top line

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TORONTO - Tyler Bozak knows he's not the main guy on the Toronto Maple Leafs' top line.

When both of your linemates are top-four in NHL scoring, it's easy to get looked over.

"I am the last guy on the line—I know that," Bozak said. "I'm out there trying to get those guys the puck as much as I can. I'm not trying to do end-to-end rushes or anything like that."

But even as Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul continue to keep up with the scoring leaders in the NHL, their centre is quietly putting together an impressive bounce-back season.

Bozak had a goal and two assists in a 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday. It was his sixth multi-point game of the season, giving him seven goals and 22 points.

He started the season slow with no goals and just five points in his first 13 games, but has 17 points in his 17 games since. That puts him on pace for 60 after posting just 32 points in all 82 games in 2010-11.

The change from last season to this year comes down to two things for the Regina native.

"A lot of it has to do with the guys I'm playing with and just confidence," Bozak said. "Last year, from the start of the year to the end of the year, I lacked a lot of confidence."

When the Leafs signed Tim Connolly in the off-season, that confidence could've taken a hit with the expectation Connolly would centre Kessel and Lupul on the first line. But early season injuries to the free agent pivot left the door open for Bozak to once again take the reins.

"I want to give it to those guys in the neutral zone with speed," he said. "They've got a ton of skill and obviously I'm not going to take as many shots as them. I want to let them take the shots because they got better shots than me."

Bozak has also benefited from bounces he's been getting this season, such as the one he got on his backhand goal on Saturday to tie the score 2-2.

"It felt good, but I was kind of lucky," he said. "I batted it out of the air and then it bounced over my stick, so I had to turn around and go backhand anyways."

The Leafs have now lost six of their last eight and are in danger of slipping out of a playoff spot, but head coach Ron Wilson isn't worried.

"We're right where I expected we would be," Wilson said. "We just got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. It's as simple as that."

And the Leafs top centre isn't worried about the team's latest slide, either.

"We're still confident," Bozak said. "You never want to go on a losing skid like that, but it's a long season and things like that are going to happen. We've had winning streaks, too. We just have to find a game here to get back on the right track."


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