If you thought it couldn't get any worse for the Islanders in this underwhelming season, you could be wrong.
Islanders captain John Tavares did not practice with the team Friday because of a lower-body issue and is day-to-day, coach Jack Capuano said.
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Capuano did not specify the nature of the lower-body injury, what caused it, when it occurred or if Tavares will play Saturday night at home against the Devils.
"Any time your captain is out, you have some concern, there's no question," Capuano said after the team's first practice since the holiday break.
That's especially true for the Islanders (11-20-7), who have won only three of their last 17 games, but two of their last three. Tavares leads them in points (39), goals (13) and assists (26) and has played in all of the Isles' 38 games.
"It's a big loss to the team because he's the captain of our team and he's one of the best players in the world," said Kyle Okposo, one of Tavares' linemates. "It's obviously a big loss but it gives other guys an opportunity to step up."
One candidate could be Brock Nelson, who practiced Friday with Tavares' line.
"Today I just tried to get back into it and not look too much into anything else," said Nelson, who has nine points in 28 games. "Tomorrow is always a new day, but if I'm out there skating with Okposo and [Thomas Vanek], I'll be ready. They're highly skilled players, and I'm not saying that other guys aren't as well, but they make a lot of plays and create open ice. Every day, no matter where I'm put, I'm just trying to help."
Tavares has played through several injuries in the past, and several players said they wouldn't be surprised if he played Saturday night.
"I don't know much about his scenario right now, but he's a competitor," Nelson said. "I look up to him and he's a leader for us. I look up to him as a player and as a person, and I'm sure if he's feeling a little all right, he'll be back out there playing right away."
Notes & quotes: Forward Casey Cizikas also did not practice, because of a personal matter, Capuano said.