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Tavares confident his goal-scoring touch will return

John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders

John Tavares #91 of the New York Islanders celebrates scoring at 12:17 of the second period against the Toronto Maple Leafs. (December 23, 2009) Credit: Getty Images

John Tavares has yet to tire of the questioning, the constant inquiries about the goals that he hasn't scored recently, and his growing frustration.

Instead, the Islanders' rookie takes it all in stride because, someday soon, he believes his touch will return.

"I can't just wait for it, I have to go out and get it," said the 19-year-old, who has only one goal in his past 10 games. " . . . My whole life I've loved to score goals. It's my greatest passion. It's going to be more fulfilling than anything."

Tavares said he understands the high expectations, and the competitor in him welcomes the challenge.

"I was picked No. 1 for a reason and there are expectations that come with that," he said. "I push myself to be better each and every day so whether I score or I don't, I'm never satisfied."

Although he may not be netting as many goals as he and Islanders fans would like, Tavares insists his defense, faceoff prowess and quickness have improved since joining the team.

"You're playing against the best players in the world, and sometimes these things happen," he said. " . . . You see a guy like Zach Parise who was just in a big slump for 14 games with no goals and Kyle [Okposo] just got over his goal slump. It happens to the best of players . . . I've scored goals, I've put up good numbers my whole life. I don't see why it won't happen again."

Coach Scott Gordon agrees.

"I think it's really hard for a first-year player not to, at some point, hit a wall and have their share of struggles," he said.

Tavares, however, isn't the only one who's struggled to score. The Islanders are tied with Tampa Bay with an NHL-low 99 goals.

Said Gordon: "I think a part of it is we've lost a little bit of edge to our game, that tenacity, that relentlessness that we had, the pace which we played at it . . . It's obvious we're not shooting the puck as much, we're not getting open as much and these are the things that, when we were playing well, we were doing quite a bit of."

Notes & quotes: Gordon said he hadn't "heard the final word" on Rick DiPietro's AHL rehab start this weekend for Bridgeport. The coach also said DiPietro won't travel to Ottawa for tonight's game against the Senators . . . Center Doug Weight (shoulder), who hasn't played since Nov. 6, could return Thursday night.

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