John Tavares has seen teammates and a few good friends depart the Islanders over the past 16 months. It's a relatively new development in the Islanders star's career, but one he's had to adjust to with the latest close friend, Colin McDonald, going on waivers on Wednesday and being sent to Bridgeport.
"I understood that comes with being in the league when I first got here,'' Tavares told Newsday. "Still, things can shock you -- I think Matt [Moulson] being traded when he was took us all by surprise. It's another lesson to learn about being a pro. I try to just focus on playing, adjusting to new teammates or new situations and just try not to dwell on those things.''
Moulson wasn't even the first of Tavares' good friends to go. Mark Streit, with whom Tavares shares an agent (Pat Brisson of CAA) and with whom Tavares spent the majority of the 2012 lockout playing in Switzerland, left the Isles via trade in June 2013 before signing a long-term deal with the Flyers.
Then came Moulson's surprising trade to the Sabres, along with a bevy of draft picks, for Thomas Vanek. Evgeni Nabokov, a good sounding board in the locker room for Tavares' emerging leadership, departed this past summer in free agency.
And now McDonald, Tavares' roommate the past two seasons, is gone. He could return, of course, having cleared waivers, but the 30-year-old McDonald may not be at the top of the Isles' recall list as this season goes on.
"It was really hard for him and it was hard for a lot of us. He was a big part of this room the past couple years,'' Tavares said. "I loved having him around away from the ice . . . We talk a lot about my first year, living with Dougie [Weight], and really Matt helped me out a lot too, living right there [in Weight's guest house] with me. This was a little like that.
"You know it's going to happen, especially when you don't have as much success as you'd like. It's still tough.''
His numbers up, Halak isn't down
Jaroslav Halak backed up his presumptive backup, Chad Johnson, for a second straight game last night, and Halak's early numbers this season are well below his career averages.
Halak has an .893 save percentage and 3.38 goals-against average. His even-strength save percentage of .904 ranks higher than only four other goal-tenders with five or more games played (there are 23 total in that category).
Even in games he's allowed a few goals, though, he's been good enough -- great in the case of the Oct. 14 game against the Rangers, when he kept the Isles in it long enough to rally in the third.
"I had one bad game,'' Halak said. "I don't think I've been bad. It's still early and it's a long season. I said before, we need two good goalies, not only one. [Johnson] played well last game, so he got the start. I have no problem with it. You only need one good game to change everything right now.''
Donovan has a healthy itch
Matt Donovan was a healthy scratch for the eighth time last night, not something a 24-year-old is accustomed to. Part of the reason Donovan hasn't gone to Bridgeport yet to get work is that the Islanders front office is concerned Donovan won't clear waivers.
But yet, here he sits again.
"I'm flattered,'' he said of the thinking he might be claimed, "but frustrated at the same time. No one wants to be a healthy scratch. But it's hard to complain when I'm in this position, being in the NHL. The coaches have told me they like me, they want me here, so I just keep working hard until I get my chance.''