Captain John Tavares' leadership skills put to the test
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It is 24 games into John Tavares' first season as captain, and his Islanders have fallen into last place in the Metropolitan Division.
Their defense is ranked 28th out of 30 in the league, allowing 3.33 goals per game. Heading into Wednesday night's home game against Winnipeg, the Islanders (8-13-3) have lost three straight and eight of 10 and have allowed at least three goals in five straight games.
But Tavares says it's not time to panic; it's time to stay positive.
"I'm just trying to keep everyone focused and everyone on the same page because things can get really frustrating," he said after practice Monday. "We're not happy with the losing and it creates a bad taste in your mouth. As the captain, I've learned that no matter what, I have to stay positive and help others remain positive.
"Losing can put a bad vibe in the locker room," he said, but the slow start has not altered his style of leading by example.
"What I try to do is make sure everyone is trying to find a way out of this," said Tavares, who, entering Monday night, was tied for third in the league in points with 27 (10 goals, 17 assists). "I don't think I should come in and try to do something totally different because of the way things have been going. I think I should continue to just be who I am and let things come naturally."
Tavares, 23, is the second-youngest captain in the NHL, older only than Gabriel Landeskog, 20, of the Avalanche.
Tavares acknowledged that the Islanders are a young team but said the lack of veterans on the roster has not been a hindrance and that he hasn't felt the need to go out of his own skin.
"I don't think I've done anything out of the ordinary," he said. "I speak up and say things when necessary and I mostly try to lead by example by going to work every day in practice and in games."
Tavares has done his part on the ice, but he can't guide the team back to the playoffs on his own. When asked about the job he has done as captain, his teammates offered a similar thought.
"Right now, it's not a question of scoring goals or leadership from up front," defenseman Radek Martinek said. "First, it's our defense that has to play to what we're capable of."
Notes & quotes: Coach Jack Capuano said after practice Monday that defenseman Thomas Hickey, who left Saturday's game in Philadelphia after taking a shot off his foot, is "day-to-day." The defense has been decimated by key injuries as Lubomir Visnovsky (concussion) and Brian Strait (upper body) remain out. Defenseman Andrew MacDonald left Monday's practice after taking a puck to his upper body. He immediately went down and then left the ice with trainers. There was no update on his condition after practice.