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Isles' Tavares tries to eliminate pressure

After a miserable stretch, John Tavares and the

After a miserable stretch, John Tavares and the Islanders have lifted some weight off their shoulders by going 3-0-1 in the past four games. (Dec. 23, 2010) Photo Credit: Getty/Jim McIsaac

John Tavares, like nearly all of his Islanders teammates, hadn't experienced anything like the 1-17-3 skid that swamped his squad for more than a month.

But the 20-year-old Tavares, who snapped a 10-game goal-scoring drought by scoring in the Islanders' wins Wednesday and Thursday, has learned some things about life in the NHL since last season.

And one of them is crucial in allowing him to bounce back.

"I'm just trying every day to remind myself not to put too much pressure on myself to score, and to try and do a little each day to get better," Tavares said. "It's something I had to learn after last season."

Tavares headed home to Mississauga, Ont., after Thursday's 5-1 win over the Devils. The two-day holiday break is the longest time Tavares and any of his teammates will have away from the rink this season; last season, Tavares got a two-week break in February for the Olympics.

It came at the right time for the then-rookie and reigning No. 1 pick. He went into that break last season with one goal in 24 games, seeming a bit burned out by the frustration of not scoring.

Coach Scott Gordon encouraged Tavares to get completely away from hockey for the break. Tavares came back mentally fresher and scored seven goals in the final 20 games.

"I just try to go back to thinking what I did last year: That I've always been able to score at every level I've played at and I know it's going to come," he said. "It's hard when the team is struggling so much to remain positive, but it's the only way to break out of these things."

The Islanders have broken out, carrying a 3-0-1 record into the break. They get right back to work with the Canadiens at the Coliseum Sunday and the Rangers at Madison Square Garden Monday. They almost certainly will be without Matt Moulson, who apparently suffered a concussion in the first period Thursday.

That's just one more obstacle for Tavares to overcome.

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