Tavares OK with playing wing for Canada

John Tavares is open to playing on the wing for Canada at the Winter Olympics

Saturday, 01.18.2014 / 1:50 PM
John Kreiser  - NHL.com Columnist
John Tavares poses in his Team Canada jersey for the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Though John Tavares has spent his entire NHL career as a center, the New York Islanders captain knows there's no guarantee he'll be in the middle when he takes the ice for Canada at the 2014 Sochi Olympics next month.

And he's OK with that.

Canada is loaded with talent down the middle, including Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Getzlaf. That could result in Tavares spending his time in Sochi on left wing, though he said this week he "hasn't heard anything" about his ultimate position.

"Really, the only thing I know is from the camp in the summertime, they had me at center," he said. "They talked to me about playing the wing and being versatile. I know there’s a possibility being in a different spot than I’m accustomed to.”

Tavares said the time he spent playing in Switzerland during the NHL lockout gave him some exposure to life as a left wing, as well as experience in playing on the larger Olympic-sized ice surface.

"I guess the one benefit I took out of the lockout last year is I played about 90 percent of the games in Switzerland on left wing," he said. "I’ve played there before on the big ice with Canada as well internationally, so I have some experience over there, and I think a lot of the adjustment for me is just make sure I'm always trying to keep my feet moving. I don't want to be standing still and getting caught flat-footed.

"Being a centerman, you always seem to be moving. When you make that adjustment, that's the biggest thing. Sometimes you feel like you can be a little flat-footed at times."

There have been rumors Tavares could end up on the left side of Anaheim Ducks linemates Getzlaf and Corey Perry, a prospect he said would be exciting.

"Those are two exceptional players," he said. "They’ve accomplished almost everything you can do in this game and are having great seasons. It would be a lot of fun playing with those guys."

Just being part of the Olympics is a thrill for Tavares, who said he has memories of watching Canada win the gold medal in Salt Lake City in 2002 and in Vancouver in 2010.

Of 2002, he remembered, "I was with all my minor hockey teammates; I was with the Mississauga Senators at that time. I remember all of us cheering and going crazy, especially when Joe Sakic iced it with the empty-netter."

Eight years later, Tavares was an NHL rookie watching the gold-medal game with linemate and fellow Canadian Matt Moulson at the home of teammate Doug Weight, a three-time U.S. Olympian.

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