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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, 08.06.2014 / 11:21 AM / News
By Cory Wright
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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.

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.

SCHEDULE

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 MTL 63 41 17 5 171 139 87
2 NYR 62 39 17 6 196 153 84
3 NYI 64 41 21 2 205 179 84
4 TBL 64 38 20 6 210 171 82
5 DET 61 35 15 11 180 159 81
6 PIT 62 36 17 9 181 155 81
7 WSH 64 34 20 10 188 159 78
8 BOS 62 31 22 9 165 161 71
9 FLA 63 28 22 13 154 178 69
10 PHI 63 27 25 11 168 183 65
11 OTT 60 27 23 10 171 163 64
12 NJD 63 26 27 10 141 164 62
13 CBJ 62 26 32 4 160 196 56
14 CAR 62 24 31 7 144 167 55
15 TOR 63 25 33 5 170 193 55
16 BUF 63 19 39 5 123 212 43

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 64 30 35 4 65
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 64 14 27 22 41
B. Nelson 64 17 19 7 36
F. Nielsen 64 11 25 12 36
A. Lee 58 20 13 13 33
J. Bailey 52 12 19 10 31
J. Boychuk 54 7 23 16 30
N. Leddy 64 8 18 15 26
T. Hamonic 54 4 21 15 25
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 33 13 0 .911 2.46
C. Johnson 8 8 1 .889 3.08

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