TAMPA — If anyone can identify with John Tavares situation, playing a season and leading a team while on the brink of free agency, it is his old friend from Ontario, Steven Stamkos. The latter heard the same speculation, answered the same questions, faced the same uncertainties that Tavares is facing when he was a free agent two years ago.
“To be honest, I haven’t really had a discussion with John about that,” Stamkos said during NHL All-Star media day Saturday. Tavares said that he has not sought advice because he is comfortable just trying to be himself. Stamkos considers that a good idea.
“If he ever asked me, I’d give him my opinion but he is obviously having an unbelievable season and is probably doing a better job of not letting it affect him than maybe I did,” Stamkos said. “It’s in the back of your head, for sure, but for him to have the season that he has had under the circumstances probably goes to show you the type of character that I know he has. I think that is what has impressed me the most. He has been able, whenever he has been asked about it, to give the right response and just go out and play the game.”
Boyle hears the loud cheers
Among the loudest ovations during introductions before the skills competition was for Brian Boyle of the Devils, the former Lightning center who was diagnosed in preseason with a form of leukemia. “I feel very loved here,” Boyle said. “I love this place.”
Boyle had fans on the ice, too. Henrik Lundqvist said of his former Rangers teammate: “How he has done this year has been really impressive. Dealing with what he has had to deal with and then being able to elevate his game and play at this level, I’m really happy for him as a friend and I’m really impressed as an opponent. He was an extremely good role player for us when he was in New York and I think he has added another level to his game. He was a good shooter when he was in New York, don’t get me wrong, but now he’s even more confident when he’s around the net.”
Tonelli will drop puck Tuesday
The Islanders announced that John Tonelli will drop the ceremonial first puck at their first post-break game, at Barclays Center Tuesday. The appearance will end a long impasse between the team and one of its cherished players, a four-time Stanley Cup winner who assisted on Bob Nystrom’s 1980 Cup-clinching goal.
Praise for Barzal
Brock Boeser of the Canucks knows he is regularly included with Mathew Barzal of the Islanders in discussions about the Calder Trophy as the top rookie. “I actually met him a few times at NHL combines, we developed a little friendship there,” Boeser said. “He’s a tremendous player, one of the best skaters, a really skilled player. So, it has been fun to see the success he’s having. It really doesn’t surprise me.”
Boeser added that he never had envisioned himself as a Calder candidate before the season: “My first goal was the make the team.”
All-Star weekend coincided with Gasparilla, Tampa’s Mardi Gras-style tradition for which people dress up like pirates. In warmups Saturday night, Erik Karlsson of the Senators skated while wearing a leather tri-cornered pirate hat . . . The audience included former Yankee Tino Martinez, who has become a hockey buff and season ticket-holder for the Lightning.
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