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John Tavares plays against old coach Dale Hunter

John Tavares of the New York Islanders brings

John Tavares of the New York Islanders brings the puck around the net against Brooks Laich of the Washington Capitals. (Jan. 17, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty Images

WASHINGTON -- John Tavares spent the last half of his final junior season playing for Dale Hunter at London of the Ontario League. Both are in the NHL now, and both still have plenty of admiration for one another.

"He really taught me a lot about the game, how to play on both sides of the puck," Tavares said of Hunter, who was named Caps coach on Nov. 29 after spending the last 11 seasons at London. "I'm glad he's gotten an opportunity here because he deserves it. He gave me a lot of responsibility and allowed me to learn a lot."

Hunter's Caps came into last night's game having won seven of the last nine and they are creeping back toward their usual spot atop the Southeast Division standings. They are a point behind first-place Florida.

As for his old junior star, Hunter knew his team needed to watch out for Tavares, who scored the Islanders' first goal Tuesday night.

"He was a great junior for me and he's going to be a star in this league," Hunter said. "He cares about winning and losing, and he's a winner. He's a real leader."

The Caps will visit Nassau Coliseum on March 13 and that will be Hunter's first time in town in over a decade. He'll surely be not so fondly remembered for his post-goal assault on Pierre Turgeon in the Patrick Division semifinals that earned Hunter a 21-game suspension the following season.

"I'm sure he'll be booed pretty well," Tavares said. "Our fans don't forget that stuff. Knowing him, though, I'm sure he won't mind. He's an intense guy."


Staios rests, Reese in

With the Islanders playing five games in eight days, Jack Capuano decided to sit Steve Staios and play Dylan Reese.

New York Sports