Doug Weight didn’t exactly cause a stir when he casually mentioned Thursday that he’s likely going to start Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle with John Tavares when the puck drops in Columbus on Friday.
That line has been together since day one of training camp, after all. Unlike in recent seasons, when Jack Capuano preferred to shuffle through different wingers for Tavares to see who fit best, Weight knew what he wanted to see from the first day and likes what that top line has done so far.
“They’re talking a lot, they’ve been together on the ice a lot, so that’s helped,” Weight said. “It’s been good so far.”
That line kicked off Friday night’s preseason game in Buffalo, with Lee scoring the first goal of the game on a pretty feed from Mathew Barzal, who took a shift with Lee and Eberle after Tavares spent time killing a penalty just prior. Eberle and Nikolay Kulemin also scored in the Islanders’ 3-1 win.
Even if that line seemed a foregone conclusion when the Isles acquired Eberle from the Oilers for Ryan Strome, there needed to be some chemistry between Eberle and Tavares. And the one-time World Junior tournament teammates have been finding a bit of it so far.
“I think he’s pretty deceptive in terms of his shot, he’s able to get it off in really tight spots,” Tavares said of Eberle.
That Tavares has been around for the whole camp is also a plus. Last season Tavares looked like he’d have Andrew Ladd and PA Parenteau as his wingers once free agency was done; thanks to the World Cup of hockey, Tavares missed all but a week of the preseason, had one game with those two and watched as Parenteau went to the Devils on waivers.
Lee and Josh Bailey didn’t become Tavares’ full-time wingers until December.
“I loved my experience at the World Cup, of course, it’s special any time you get to represent your country,” Tavares said. “But it’s great to be able to be here and have time to be with my Islanders teammates, be able to grow those bonds you need to get through a whole season.”