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Tavares Eager for Season

John Tavares has put his season-ending knee injury behind him and is excited about the Islanders new look.

Wednesday, 08.6.2014 / 11:21 AM ET / News
By Cory Wright
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Tavares Eager for Season

For a born winner and fierce competitor like John Tavares, a six-month summer break is just too long.

Sure, the weather’s nice and having some downtime with friends and family is great, but the Islanders captain would rather work through June.

“While the summer’s been good for other reasons, it’s been too long and I want to change that this coming season,” Tavares said. “It’s probably the longest stretch I’ve ever gone without playing. I’m looking forward to training camp and I want to finish off the summer strong and come into the year motivated with a lot to prove.”

Tavares sustained a season-ending knee injury while playing for Team Canada at the Winter Olympics in February. He played his last NHL game on Feb. 8.

Tavares missed the Islanders final 22 games, but fortunately the injury didn’t require surgery and Tavares began rehabbing immediately following his return to Long Island. He progressed through his off-ice therapy and was cleared for full skating activity in mid-May, when he began practicing with the OHL’s London Knights.

Now, two-and-a-half-months later, the Islanders captain is working through his annual rigorous offseason training regiment and putting the injury behind him.

“It’s been a really good summer from a training aspect,” Tavares said. “It’s nice to focus on what I really need to work on, what I need to get better at and to get in the best shape I can for the season.”

As well as the summer workouts have gone physically, the long break can take a mental toll, especially on a competitor and leader like Tavares. He is chomping at the bit to get back on the ice with the Islanders, who have done their part to ensure a shorter offseason in 2015.

“The competition in camp might be the highest it’s been since I’ve been here,” Tavares said. “Certainly that’s going to push us individually and as a team. Not only are guys fighting for roles and ice time, but it also will help us as a team, bringing us together and pushing one another to be better as a group.”

Tavares said that he’s excited to return to Long Island and play with the Islanders new acquisitions; Jaroslav Halak, Chad Johnson, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin. Halak and Johnson represent a complete overhaul of the Islanders crease, while Grabovski and Kulemin headline an influx of talent and depth up front. The Islanders also signed Cory Conacher, a speedy, skilled forward who will increase the competition at training camp.

“Goaltending was something [General Manager] Garth [Snow] addressed right away. It’s something he wanted to provide more stability with,” Tavares said. “I’ve always talked about the presence Evgeni Nabokov had in our lockerroom, but we’re bringing in a pretty young goaltender with some great numbers over his career. Year in and year out, he’s pretty consistent.”

Returning a healthy Tavares adds more to the Islanders lineup than any free agent could. The 23-year-old was the NHL’s third-leading scorer at the time of his injury, posting 66 points (24G, 42A) in 59 games, and was a Hart Trophy finalist for league MVP in 2012-13.

Training camp is a month-and-a-half away, so it won’t be long until Tavares trades off-ice workouts for morning skates and summertime blues for Islander blue and orange.

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EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 WSH 53 40 9 4 175 120 84
2 FLA 55 32 17 6 153 127 70
3 NYR 55 31 18 6 157 140 68
4 DET 55 28 18 9 138 134 65
5 NYI 53 29 18 6 150 131 64
6 TBL 54 30 20 4 144 130 64
7 BOS 54 29 19 6 159 148 64
8 PIT 54 28 19 7 139 136 63
9 NJD 55 27 21 7 122 123 61
10 CAR 55 24 21 10 131 143 58
11 MTL 56 27 25 4 151 151 58
12 PHI 53 24 20 9 127 138 57
13 OTT 56 25 25 6 157 173 56
14 BUF 56 22 28 6 131 155 50
15 CBJ 56 22 28 6 140 173 50
16 TOR 53 19 25 9 122 149 47

STATS

2015-2016 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 50 20 23 -2 43
K. Okposo 51 15 28 -9 43
F. Nielsen 53 15 19 -1 34
B. Nelson 53 20 11 -1 31
M. Grabovski 53 9 16 3 25
A. Lee 53 9 15 0 24
J. Bailey 52 9 15 4 24
N. Leddy 53 3 21 -7 24
R. Strome 42 6 15 -4 21
C. Cizikas 53 5 12 5 17
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 13 11 4 .918 2.27
T. Greiss 15 6 2 .929 2.24
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