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Leafs’ Tavares plays it cool with Islanders storm approaching

John Tavares required no component of any war of words and phrases forward of Thursday’s hockey homecoming versus the New York Islanders in Uniondale, wherever he’s likely to receive a tough reception from the group.

“You have a perception of what it may be like,” the former Isles captain mentioned following Tuesday’s Leaf practice. “So whoever it is, I just go out and attempt and engage in and help the Maple Leafs.”

The Islanders drafted John Tavares first overall in 2009 and he went on to become captain. Tavares plays in Uniondale as an opponent for the first time on Thursday night.
The Islanders drafted John Tavares initially over-all in 2009 and he went on to turn out to be captain. Tavares plays in Uniondale as an opponent for the initially time on Thursday night time.  (Jamie Squire / GETTY Images file picture)

Nassau Coliseum was Tavares’ NHL household for 9 seasons, before the Mississauga-born all-star fulfilled a boyhood desire by signing with his hometown crew final summertime for $77 million U.S. more than seven seasons.

The Islanders drafted him initially over-all in 2009 and he was the confront of the franchise until finally that Canada Day deal. Bitterness has lingered at any time given that between the Isles lover foundation, some of whom felt Tavares realized all along that he’d be leaving and still left his outdated club no time to attempt to fill the void.

They have voiced their displeasure in quite a few techniques — most not long ago in a commonly shared movie that functions a cross-area of followers lashing out at Tavares. He is aware of what’s coming, but is hoping to engage in it awesome.

“I imagine it’s wonderful becoming at the Coliseum, no question — for my self individually, commencing there, initially match, initially aim, good deal of wonderful memories,” he mentioned. “A major component is becoming component of Islander background, becoming at that rink, and enjoyable to be again there all over again.”

The Islanders, underneath former Leafs basic manager Lou Lamoriello, observed a way to regroup following Tavares’ exit and are between the ideal teams in the East. They will engage in out the relaxation of the season at Nassau Coliseum, their first rink and the oldest in the NHL. They switched again to Uniondale following three seasons wherever they either performed complete-time at the Barclays Heart in Brooklyn, or bounced in between the two.

The Leafs and Isles have plenty of background at the outdated rink, which include a raucous playoff sequence in 2002, which Toronto gained in seven video games. In people times, most teams stayed at the Marriott hotel throughout the parking good deal from the Coliseum. The Leafs, nevertheless, stayed a few miles from the arena again then, partly mainly because of protection worries — which include threats versus Leaf Darcy Tucker, a focus on following a controversial hit on Isles centre Mike Peca the 12 months before.

Now, for solely distinctive causes, Tavares is the fans’ focus on.

“I’m not hoping to overthink it,” Tavares mentioned. “I am just going out there hoping to be myself … and help the Leafs.

“Obviously, my initially time again, it is what it is. Regardless of what reception I get, I will just attempt and go out there and engage in.”

Tavares has given the Leafs complete worth in his initially season, major the crew in targets with 35 — three shy of his profession higher, set in 2014-15 — and by case in point.

He went to wonderful lengths — which include a heartfelt letter to Isles followers — to reveal the reasoning at the rear of his cost-free-agent choice final summertime, and suggests he nevertheless feels indebted to the franchise.

“I truly embraced becoming an Islander,” mentioned Tavares, a two-time Hart Trophy finalist with the club. “I liked it. It was a wonderful area to engage in. I never did not delight in my time there.

“When things weren’t going well, I did anything I could to hopefully help the crew and get a Stanley Cup. And however we weren’t able to do that, and I consider accountability, specially becoming the captain — not undertaking a great enough career continually, and that’s all I tried to do. I tried to be the ideal player and human being I could be, and you find out a good deal.

“I realized a good deal there and grew a good deal. Really grateful for the effect a good deal of folks had on me. So for me, I truly tried to give it anything I had on a everyday foundation, and tried to do the ideal I can for the Islanders, and I was truly proud to be 1 of them.”

Before Thursday’s match, though, Tavares’ concentrate will be on Connor McDavid and the Oilers, who engage in at Scotiabank Arena on Wednesday night time. With Leafs centre Nazem Kadri recovering from a concussion and not predicted to engage in, it could be Tavares who draws the assignment of covering McDavid, who will no question be fired up following lacking two video games with a suspension for a head hit.

Kadri did shooting drills on goalie Frederik Andersen on Tuesday, but remains in concussion protocol. He have to nevertheless be cleared to skate complete-out, then take part in a complete practice with get hold of before a return to match action.

Defenceman Jake Gardiner (again) did not practise and is questionable for the Edmonton match.

Mark Zwolinski is a athletics reporter primarily based in Toronto. Abide by him on Twitter: @markzwol

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