Scattered Clouds 53° Good Morning
Scattered Clouds 53° Good Morning
SportsColumnistsArthur Staple

John Tavares kills it in Islanders’ penalty-killing role

John Tavares celebrates his goal against the Florida

John Tavares celebrates his goal against the Florida Panthers during game six of the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals at Barclays Center on Sunday, April 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

John Tavares, penalty killer? As if this guy doesn’t do enough already.

But yes, there was Tavares on Tuesday in Boston, out not just to take the initial faceoff to start the Islanders first penalty kill, but remaining out to pair with Nikolay Kulemin as a regular penalty-killer in addition to Tavares’ other duties.

It was the first time Tavares has taken a regular PK shift in his entire NHL career, beyond hopping the boards in the closing seconds of an opposing power play. He logged 2:24 of PK time, more than the 2:21 of power play time he had in the 4-2 win.

“It’s really like anything else, just understanding the framework and the system we play, and just trying to use your hockey sense to be smart out there,” Tavares said. “When to be aggressive and when to contain the middle of the ice, give predictable shots for our goalie. It’s just understanding that. We’ve had the same type of system for a little while now so being able to see it in practice every day and watch it on video, I had a good sense of it.”

With Casey Cizikas out at least another week with an upper-body injury — and a source said Cizikas will more likely return after the Jan. 1-5 collective bargaining agreement-mandated break for the Islanders — Tavares’ presence on the PK is all the more crucial.

Cizikas has taken 97 of the 192 shorthanded faceoffs for the Islanders this season, winning 40. Tavares is the team’s best faceoff man.

“He’s going to kill,” Jack Capuano said of Tavares after Tuesday’s game. “You talk about hockey IQ, and it’s not that the other guys don’t have it, but he definitely does.”

Tavares did do some penalty-killing work in junior hockey, but he laughed at the memory. “I was thinking to score mostly back then,” he said. “Now it’s about limiting opportunities for the opponent to score.”


Islanders owner Jon Ledecky’s interview tour added another big name in the past few weeks: Former Lightning and Rangers star Martin St. Louis, who retired after the 2014-15 season.

Two sources confirmed that Ledecky and St. Louis talked, though it’s unknown if Ledecky would consider St. Louis for the hockey operations role that the Islanders owners have been considering. Ledecky and Scott Malkin have talked with numerous former players, agents and NHL executives over the past few months while the team sunk to the bottom of the Eastern Conference.

St. Louis forced a trade from Tampa to the Rangers at the 2013-14 trade deadline and helped the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final that season. After his contract expired the following year St. Louis chose to retire and coach his sons’ hockey teams in Greenwich, Conn. — the same town where Ledecky and Malkin became friends as teenagers.

Among the other headlining names that Ledecky has spoken with are Brad Richards, who won a Cup with St. Louis in Tampa; Pat Brisson, Tavares’ agent and Pat LaFontaine, former Islander and briefly part of Charles Wang’s front office in 2006.


Capuano gave an expansive answer when asked why Josh Ho-Sang and Michael Dal Colle, the Isles’ two top young forward prospects in Bridgeport, were not called up on Wednesday. The Isles recalled 33-year-old veteran Stephen Gionta instead.

“Maturity — not only on the ice but off the ice,” Capuano said. “How do they handle themselves, what are they doing in the weight room. Do they have the sense of entitlement, like ‘I should be here [in the NHL] because I’m a high pick.’ Attitude. All the intangibles that go into it when we call down and ask if they’re ready. And it’s also on the ice — systematically, are they understanding what we do, what their conditioning is. If those coaches feel he’s not ready, we put a lot of trust in that. When they’re ready, they’ll make the jump.”

New York Sports