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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 / News
By John Kreiser  - NHL.com Columnist
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Tavares OK with playing wing for Canada
John Tavares is open to playing on the wing for Canada at the Winter Olympics.
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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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 49 28 13 8 145 125 64
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 49 18 22 9 110 137 45
15 CAR 48 17 25 6 104 125 40
16 BUF 50 14 33 3 94 179 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 48 23 25 -1 48
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 48 9 25 16 34
B. Nelson 48 15 15 5 30
F. Nielsen 48 9 17 4 26
J. Boychuk 38 4 21 16 25
J. Bailey 36 8 14 7 22
N. Leddy 48 7 14 14 21
N. Kulemin 48 11 9 0 20
A. Lee 42 13 5 6 18
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 26 10 0 .912 2.42
C. Johnson 6 5 0 .870 3.38

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