John Tavares asserts faith in coaching, implores team to play better

New York Islanders John Tavares skates in the New York Islanders John Tavares skates in the pre-game spotlight before he plays the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL hockey game in Toronto. (Nov. 19, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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John Tavares repeated many of the same words he already had spoken during the 2-9-0 slide the Islanders bring into Friday afternoon's Coliseum visit from the Red Wings.

Tavares, standing in another quiet locker room after another loss, said his team has to learn to play a full, consistent game, that minutes-long mental lapses are sinking the Islanders' chances to duplicate last season's efforts.

Once the crowd had dispersed around Tavares, he was asked a simpler question: Do he and his teammates still believe Jack Capuano's message is getting through?

"We've got all the faith in the world in the people in this organization," Tavares told Newsday. "We're the ones stepping on the ice. We're the ones not getting the job done. We proved last year what we're capable of. This is not last year, but this is about the guys in this room."

Capuano, for his part, does not see a team that has tuned out the coaching staff. His Islanders lost to the Jets, 3-2, on Wednesday night in a game that featured an equal number of mistakes and scoring chances on both sides. Afterward, Capuano said that during the team's slow start last season -- they were 8-11-2 before turning the shortened season around with a 16-6-5 finish -- he saw some worse signs than he's seeing now.

"If I go back during this stretch, if I'd seen that [being consistently outworked and outplayed], that would be one thing," Capuano said. "It's been small battles here and there that we've lost, and that's been the message: One or two seconds can cost you."

That message was sent Thursday to Matt Donovan, whose giveaway at center ice led to the Jets' second goal during Winnipeg's three-goal second period. Donovan, a rookie, was sent down to Bridgeport and Calvin de Haan, the 12th pick in the 2009 draft, joined the Islanders.

De Haan has lost two seasons to major shoulder surgeries since the Islanders selected him 11 picks after Tavares. He had a goal and two assists in 17 games with Bridgeport this season after playing only three games last season before his latest shoulder injury.

"If we can get another guy who can play poised with the puck, make better decisions, that will help us as a team," Capuano said.

The coach has not decided on any lineup changes among the forwards, but Josh Bailey, with no goals and two assists in his last 15 games, is a candidate to be a healthy scratch. Capuano has done the same with Michael Grabner, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Peter Regin in the last four games, and the Islanders need more than just Tavares' line to produce.

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