John Tavares is still hurting . . . but not from the pain in his left knee. It's more mental anguish from not being able to play after suffering a torn MCL six weeks ago while playing for Canada in the Winter Olympics.
"Certainly, it ain't easy. Would love to be playing; wish I was playing, helping out the team," the Islanders' captain said Wednesday night where he appeared at a Charles Wang-sponsored charity event, the Smile Train Power of a Smile Gala, held at Tavares' future home, the Barclays Center. "You're so competitive and you love to play. I take a lot of pride in being very durable, so it's certainly tough watching. It's very difficult knowing I'm not going to be playing again until September or October. It'll be a long time until I play another game, so that's tough to grasp."
Tavares has been paying attention to the Islanders' games. He knows they entered Wednesday night 8-5-2 since the Olympic break but cautions, "Obviously, we're not playing for a whole lot right now. We can't be fooled with the way we finish here because of the way the rest of the season went."
He called a season in which the Islanders were unable to capitalize on last spring's playoff buzz "frustrating and disappointing. So it's an important offseason once again. We need to refocus and regroup and get back to competing for the playoffs."
An encouraging sign is Tavares' rehabilitation, which he called "intensive. It's going really well. I'm coming closer to the end. It's a progression. We have to assess it every week to see how strength and stability are going. The next step is to be a lot more dynamic. Off-ice stuff first, in terms of running and changing direction. Once that goes well, then I can get back on the ice."
He believes that will happen soon enough so that his summer can be "a normal summer, training-wise and preparing for the season."
Tavares addressed the rumors about the team possibly being sold and changing owners. "You don't have any control over that stuff. You try not to worry about it and just focus on doing what you're supposed to do," he said. "In my case, it's doing everything I can in rehab. Hopefully that stuff gets taken care off. It's good to have stability [of ownership] and Charles has provided that for a long time. If there's a change, there's a change, but I know how much he has invested in this team and we're looking forward to the future."