John Tavares faces stern test as Islanders captain

Islanders' John Tavares skates against the Buffalo Sabres

Islanders' John Tavares skates against the Buffalo Sabres in the first period of an NHL hockey game at Nassau Coliseum. (Oct. 15, 2013) (Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

John Tavares has had a serious test in his first season as Islanders captain, with his team entering last night's game here against the Kings sporting the second-worst record through 29 games in Tavares' five seasons on the Island.

He's gone through the gamut of emotions and reactions as captain, but he said Saturday morning that the time is now for positive reinforcement in a very fragile locker room.

"There have been times we've needed to challenge ourselves to be better, to be a little tougher on each other," Tavares said. "There's times you have to be more positive and make sure we stick together. Right now, I think it's important we stick together and start finding a way to win games."

Tavares has leaned primarily on Doug Weight for captain advice this season. Weight wore the 'C' for the Oilers and Islanders and has served as Tavares' mentor ever since Tavares came to the Islanders.

"His experience and how close we've been, it's easy to ask a question or see what he thinks," Tavares said.

 

Poulin in goal, Nelson in

for Regin vs. Kings

Kevin Poulin returned to the net for last night's game with the Kings. Anders Nilsson had started the previous three games and both young goal- tenders were likely to get a chance in the back-to-back games Monday in Anaheim and Tuesday in San Jose.

Brock Nelson, a healthy scratch the previous three, went back in the lineup in place of Peter Regin against the Kings.

MacDonald getting used

to protective face guard

Andrew MacDonald has been wearing a plastic face guard that juts out over his chin the last two weeks, some added protection after he took a deflected puck to the face in practice on Nov. 25. MacDonald prefers the plastic guard to a full face shield, but this thing still has its limitations.

"Guys can give you an extra shove or shot and there's nothing you can really do," said MacDonald, who had his helmet wrestled off by the Blues' Alex Steen on Thursday. "It's something you can't really worry about."

MacDonald has another week or two wearing the face guard.

 

Nabokov expecting emotional return to San Jose Tuesday

Evgeni Nabokov played 10 seasons with the Sharks and the quirks of the old NHL schedule, where teams did not play all 29 other teams home and away, plus the 2012 lockout meant that Nabokov has avoided a return to San Jose since he joined the Islanders.

He still won't play in San Jose when the Islanders visit there Tuesday, not quite ready to return from a groin injury. But Nabokov will be there at the SAP Center and might even be ready to back up either Poulin or Nilsson.

"It's going to be emotional, no question," Nabokov said. "I spent a lot of time there, there's a lot of memories -- it's not going to be easy. It's a great city, great organization. It's going to be a little different."

Nabokov still has a home in Northern California and trains there during the offseason.