John Tavares is back with the Islanders. He missed 10 days of training camp, but he’s hardly fallen behind.
The month he spent with Team Canada as it marched to a World Cup championship will only fuel Tavares’ fire to start this season, especially after the way the Isles captain struggled in the first half of last season following a week-long illness at the end of October and a six-week on-ice slog that followed before he turned his play back up to finish the season.
“I played nine games in a best-on-best tournament, at that pace, physically you’re as ready as you can be,” Tavares said on Tuesday after his first Isles practice of the season. “Now it’s about making sure you get enough rest, maintaining that level and trying to build some chemistry, getting back to our systems here and the role you’re playing here.”
His role in Toronto with Canada was a bit different, with Tavares playing exclusively on left wing throughout, primarily on a line with Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf and Lightning captain (and usual center) Steven Stamkos. Tavares emerged from the World Cup having displayed the best individual moves of any player in the tournament and his line generated plenty of chances, if not a multitude of goals.
“Playing with Getzlaf was a lot of fun,” he said. “Me and Stammer grew up together, so I think we just relished being able to play with each other again, kind of picking up where we left off as kids. Getzy’s such a smart player, uses his size so well, strong on the puck and a very vocal guy as well. That made it a lot easier for me adjusting to the wing, he was always talking out there. It really helped our success and made me feel comfortable.”
Tavares didn’t play against the Rangers on Tuesday at Barclays Center and it’s possible he may not play Wednesday against the Devils in Newark. That would leave the final preseason game, Sunday in Washington, as his only game prep before the Isles and Rangers kick off the season on Oct. 13.
After his World Cup high, however, there’s no concerns about being prepared for what’s to come.
“It’s right up there for me, right along with the Olympics,” Tavares said. “I got to play in my home country, in my hometown, in a best-on-best tournament. Team Canada is such a hard team to make and you just don’t know how many opportunities you’re going to get. Being able to stay healthy throughout the whole tournament, playing in the semi and the final, those are things you dream about as a kid. And obviously to win, it was a lot of fun.”
Notes & quotes: Josh Bailey scored the overtime winner with 21.9 seconds left in a 3-2 win over the Rangers at Barclays Center on Tuesday. Cal Clutterbuck had the other two Islanders goals.