The All-Star Game doesn't mean anything -- less so now that it's become a choose-up game of shinny -- but it still holds some symbolism.
And it meant something to the Islanders players last season that they didn't have anyone picked to play in the game, Michael Grabner's skills competition selection not quite assuaging their feeling that the NHL felt OK overlooking one of its struggling teams.
"He's a point-a-game player," Kyle Okposo said, "and point-a-game players are the special guys in this league. He more than deserves it."
"He's had his ups and downs his first two years, but he's been so consistent this year," said Mark Streit, who was the last Isles' All-Star, in the 2009 game. "He's really been on a good streak."
The Islanders are still in 14th place in the East, with the Flyers coming to the Coliseum Thursday night. So expecting to have two All-Stars -- Matt Moulson, Tavares' running mate, is tied for seventh with 20 goals -- is far-fetched.
But Tavares' third pro season will be difficult for the NHL's hockey operations department to ignore. He's got 14 goals and 39 points, 12 of those coming in the last six games, when his line with Moulson and Okposo has carried the Isles' offense.
Being named an All-Star isn't quite what it used to be -- with the NHL's midseason showcase taking a backseat to the Winter Classic and the Olympics, it's not as big an honor as it once was. Tavares, though, is such a hockey nerd that it still means quite a bit to him.
"I used to watch it every year as a kid, and I loved it," he said. "To be selected would be something I'd remember."
With no Olympic tournament until Feb. 2014, and the Isles still vainly trying to garner some continental attention, a selection Thursday may help raise Tavares' profile.
He's still focused on games such as Thursday night's, with the Isles going from a 5-1 rout of the Red Wings (they're 5-0-1 against Detroit in the last seven seasons) to facing a rival that has owned the Islanders -- the Islanders have won two of their last 28 meetings with Philly.
"If it happens, it'll be a great honor to represent the Islanders in Ottawa," Tavares said of an All-Star nod. "If it doesn't, it's not the end of the world."
Notes & quotes: Prospect Calvin de Haan is out of action 4-6 weeks in Bridgeport with an injured left shoulder. De Haan had major shoulder surgery two years ago . . . F David Ullstrom was activated off injured reserve and sent back to Bridgeport. He missed three weeks with a concussion.