John Tavares is known among his teammates and peers as an unselfish player, someone who works as hard as he can to make things better for everyone around him. So fans shouldn't take it lightly when he basically says, as he did yesterday, that he owes them one.
"I think every team in this league and us as players, we're all going to try to do certain things on and off the ice to get the fans back and try to apologize in some kind of way," the Islanders' top player said hours before opening night and months after the games were supposed to have started. Tavares, 22, would understand if fans are unhappy with both the NHL and the players' association for the lockout.
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"Obviously, you never can really tell them how sorry we are and how unfortunate these past few months have been," he said before the Islanders lost, 2-1, to the Devils at Nassau Coliseum. "Mostly, you can give them, on the ice, what they want. That's some great hockey. This game is the best in the world."
Radek Martinek, the veteran Islander who signed a one-year contract on the eve of camp, was a healthy scratch, as was Thomas Hickey, the young defenseman picked up off waivers from the Kings on Tuesday. The Isles wanted to see some bigger bodies on defense because of a physical group of Devils forwards.
So Joe Finley, a 6-8 waiver pickup from the Sabres on Monday, and Brian Strait, picked up on waivers from the Penguins on Friday, were in the lineup. Strait, who already has played 24 AHL games this season, played mostly on the left side with Mark Streit and acquitted himself well.
Josh Bailey (knee) said he may be cleared to skate prior to the Isles' game against the Lightning at the Coliseum tomorrow . . . Devils first-round pick Stefan Matteau, 18, son of Rangers Stanley Cup hero Stephane, made his NHL debut last night with his father in attendance. The winger had three shots on goal and twice came close to scoring.