NHL teammates will be rivals at Olympics
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There has been no good-natured trash talk in the Islanders' locker room among teammates who will become rivals in next month's Olympic tournament. Not yet, anyway.
"Let's just wait until the teams are named and, hopefully, I'm there," Islanders captain John Tavares said. "And then maybe we can start to talk a little."
Tuesday is the Olympic deadline for qualified nations to submit their rosters. As of early Monday night, only the United States, Switzerland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic had formally announced their teams.
(Islanders wing Kyle Okposo, to the surprise of many hockey followers, was left off the U.S. team. Two former Islanders, Nino Niederreiter and Mark Streit, were on the Swiss roster.)
Tavares has long been considered a lock for the Canadian team, which will be revealed at an 11 a.m. news conference Tuesday in Toronto. Islanders forwards Thomas Vanek and Michael Grabner both are assured of playing for Austria.
Vanek on Monday declared that Canada and the United States are the gold-medal candidates, keeping Austria in the "no way" underdog role for the Olympic title.
"I don't know if he's joking," Tavares said. "But I think the game is growing in so many areas, and those smaller countries compete a lot more than 15, 20 years ago."
Two of Tavares' opponents Monday night, Dallas forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, are considered candidates to be his Canadian teammates at the Sochi Winter Games.
Family comes first
Okposo, the Islanders' second-leading scorer (16 goals, 42 points) behind Tavares, was not available for Monday night's game while he and his wife, Danielle, a former hockey player for Minnesota's St. Cloud State, awaited the birth of their first child.
In Okposo's stead, forward Frans Nielsen wore the alternate captain's "A."
Forward Josh Bailey was back in the lineup after missing four games with a shoulder injury. He picked up an assist on a nifty pass that set up Peter Regin's second-period goal.